By Martie Thompson
With the inception of the Fine Arts Conservatory, experienced non-profit leader Bill Di Stanisloa has finally realized a dream of providing a true, full community fine arts organization for all ages. Through its Mandarin acting troupe, Act II Players, the conservatory will stage its first production, “Miracle on 34th Street,” over the weekend of Nov. 22 at Mandarin United Methodist Church.
As one of the original board members of the former Northeast Florida Conservatory along with founder Richard Dickson, Di Stanisloa enjoyed focusing on the Mandarin area with community music and theater offerings. After Dickson retired, Di Stanisloa was asked by Dickson and the board of directors to keep the Northeast Florida Conservatory going.
“We had a decision to make … are we going to look at a bigger picture?” Di Stanisloa said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to bring a full fine arts organization to the community that also featured art education, art literature, sculpture, painting, dance, music, voice and theater arts?”
So the Fine Arts Conservatory was formed. But the Northeast Florida Conservatory, particularly the theater arts group, still desired a uniquely Mandarin presence.
Word got out that they were looking for a Mandarin performance location and a series of events led them to talk to Tom Boyko, executive assistant to the senior pastor at Mandarin United Methodist Church. Boyko was also looking for a new means of outreach for the church. Mandarin United Methodist has a 450-seat auditorium and was open to the idea of serving as the permanent Mandarin location for the newly created division of the Fine Arts Conservatory called the Act II Players. Di Stanisloa said they also plan to offer theater classes on the church campus in addition to staging productions.
“One of our goals as a church has been to use our worship center to reach out to the community,” Boyko said. “Plus, it is our new music director Austen Wilson’s dream to build arts and music in our community — we’d like to be known as the arts and music church.”
Boyko said that the church’s goal is to build a relationship with the Fine Arts Conservatory and the two groups are already promoting each other. The hope is that by supporting a beloved community theater arts group, it will bring people into the church. Additionally, next summer, the church will host a youth music camp in conjunction with the Fine Arts Conservatory.
“This is a perfect marriage of two organizations,” Boyko said.
The first production, “Miracle on 34th Street,” was selected because Di Stanisloa said they want to make sure they provide quality productions that stick to tradition and are not redundant year after year. Since the group is non-profit, most of the productions will be older, royalty-free plays.
“This provides great education for our actors, “ Di Stanisloa said.
“Miracle on 34th Street” has already been cast and rehearsals have started. Patti Everett is serving as stage manager for the show which includes 27 cast members of all ages … “off the charts for a non-musical” according to Di Stanisloa.
Tickets are on sale now on the Fine Arts Conservatory website, www.faconservatory.com. A percentage of the proceeds are going directly to Mandarin United Methodist Church for its mission work.
“Miracle on 34th Street” will have four shows: Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets ranges from $19.50 to $22.50 and the link to purchase tickets is on the Fine Arts Conservatory website, https://faconservatory.org.
Photo courtesy Bill Di Stanisloa