Since founding the nonprofit theater organization, Our Fabulous Variety Show, in 2010, Anita Boyer and Kasia Klimiuk have had success fulfilling and building on their mission to create new and original works on stage, and educate and uplift young performers of all ages, interests, and ability levels on the East End.
They’ve rehearsed and performed at several different venues in the area, but in all that time, did not have a permanent place to call home.
That changed a few months ago, thanks to a key connection they made over the summer. While doing some private outdoor group instruction at the home of a client, Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk met Aaron Goldschmidt, founder and operator of Shine, a New York City-based company that offers summer camps and children’s enrichment programs, bringing them directly to families in their homes. Mr. Goldschmidt recently took over the space at the Unitarian Church in Sag Harbor that was the former home of the Rainbow School preschool, which closed earlier this year, and he offered studio space to Our Fabulous Variety Show.
Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk were thrilled to make the connection with Mr. Goldschmidt, and said there is a natural relationship between what they each offer for children in terms of their programming.
“It’s been a fun and interesting partnership,” Ms. Boyer said, adding that Mr. Goldschmidt had been looking to expand his presence out east. “His clientele tends to be more of the summer and weekend crew, and we have more of a local crew, so it feels like a good synergy.”
Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk said that Mr. Goldschmidt is working on sprucing up the space and doing some renovations that will allow both organizations to thrive, including building a stage and courtyard, and cleaning up the playground and making new pathways.
“He’s really investing a lot into the space to make it a beautiful, creative haven for visual and performing arts,” Ms. Boyer said.
Those projects are still underway, but Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk are not wasting any time getting started. They opened their fall slate of classes on Monday, pointing out that operating as a non-profit means they don’t have the luxury of taking it slow. They have a wide range of offerings for children of all ages, from performing arts classes, theater, dance, improv, tap, hip hop and more.
Ms. Klimiuk and Ms. Boyer met in 2010 when they were both performing in a production of Cabaret at the Southampton Cultural Center. Ms. Klimiuk, a Hampton Bays graduate who holds a master’s degree in applied theater, went to Manhattan College and was always passionate about theater, performing from a young age. Ms. Boyer grew up in Ohio and moved to the area when her father became the pastor at the Southampton Presbyterian Church. (She joked that performing in Cabaret shortly after moving to the community where her father had taken a role as the new pastor of a local church was probably an interesting look). While starring together in the musical, Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk became friends, and shortly after, Ms. Boyer convinced Ms. Klimiuk to join her in running a half marathon in Las Vegas to raise money for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation. To boost those fundraising efforts, they decided to put on a variety show. It was such a success, they did it several other times, dubbing it “Our Fabulous Variety Show.”
Eventually, it morphed into the non-profit they run today.
They joke that an alternate name for their theater company could be “not another dance studio.” They know there is no shortage of those in the area, and from the start say they have been committed to certain ideals that make them stand out.
“Our core values as a company are to make things accessible,” Ms. Boyer said. Whether that means offering shorter semesters so families and children don’t get intimidated or turned off by the length of the time commitment, or providing more choice when it comes to their offerings, they say they are committed to making being part of a performance an attainable goal.
“Our classes for teens are accessible, even if you’ve never danced before,” Ms. Klimiuk said. “It can be intimidating to walk into classes where the kids have been dancing since they were 5. It’s easy to feel like you missed out, but there’s no such thing as the right age to start acting or dancing. It’s never too late.”
Inclusivity is key as well, they said, pointing out that they also offer classes for adults, and also work with students of all economic backgrounds, never turning someone away because of a financial issue.
“We want to make sure there’s no barrier to the arts,” Ms. Klimiuk said.
They also like to keep things fresh. While Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk have a wide range of experience in tap, jazz, and theater, they also host master classes, bringing in artists who specialize in ballet, hip hop and other mediums.
One of the features Ms. Boyer and Ms. Klimiuk are most enthusiastic about is the creation of original works of theater they collaborate on with their students.
Creating plays from scratch, with original narratives that are sometimes loosely based on well known stories, like Alice in Wonderland, is hard work, but rewarding for the students.
“There’s power in the creative process,” Ms. Boyer said. “The kids get to pick the character names, create back stories. We improvise scenes and record them, and can turn them into the script.”
They laughed together about the often chaotic early stages of putting together original works of performance art, but said it always comes together in the end, and, as their name suggests, there is plenty of variety.
“Our shows have always turned out aesthetically beautiful,” Ms. Klimiuk said. “We’ve had aerialists, we’ve had drag queens. We love drag queens. We keep it eclectic.
“When you start saying ‘yes’ to the kids instead of ‘no,’ it changes everything,” she added.
In addition to the work it will do at the new home base, Our Fabulous Variety Show will still offer classes at one of its regular haunts, the Neighborhood House in East Hampton, home of Project Most, but having the permanent space at Shine will create the kind of stability that will allow them to offer more programming, and have it planned out further in advance, rather than waiting to see if room will open up at other locations.
“We’re so grateful and excited,” Ms. Boyer said.