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Winchester school theater moves to new site, says ‘bye’ to old quarters

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Who knows what stage futures are being launched in local youth productions. Courtesy Photos Claire McDonald

Claire McDonald and her Young Actors Academy bowed out of the Youth Development Center (YDC) in Winchester last weekend with four plays and will open next season in the Independent School of Winchester’s new quarters at 769 Roundhill Road in November.

The Independent School of Winchester (ISW), a 13-year-old private institute of learning for students K-12, holds the theater arts in high regard and has a student population of about 80, many of whom appear publicly in Academy shows throughout the year.

“Alice in Wonderland Jr.” will be staged at what was once a historic fire house and is now the school’s new site on November 6. Student auditions are August 17-18 and rehearsals begin August 28 at the new campus. The show is a fresh version of the old Lewis Carroll book that was made into a 1951 Disney Studios movie.

That the school takes great pride in its “young actors” program was apparent August 3 when Head of School McDonald introduced two veterans of the now closed Wayside Theatre in Middletown. They were popular lead actor Thomasin Savaiano, now living in Chicago, and Becca Shelor, formerly of Woodstock but now a resident of Sterling, VA. Both were directors of the school’s two productions at the YDC. Both teach courses in the dramatic arts.

Thomasin Savaiano (center) flanked by teenage cast members of the Young Actors Academy.

Earlier, on July 29 several members of board of directors of Wayside Theatre entertained the returning Thomasin Savaiano at a dinner in Middletown.

Said Savaiano in a “thank you” message at YDC: “Thanks to the Youth Development Center (for space and lighting assistance) … and to my amazing staff of students, former students and current professionals who gave everything they had, day after day, to ensure the success of our actors … absolutely worth their weight in gold!” Savaiano mentioned Becca Shelor, Ming McDonald, Audrey Nakagawa, Rachel Musser and Hannah Fletcher as among that “gold standard”.

Becca Shelor (top left) with her cast of young actors

In an end of season message Shelor paid tribute to Savaiano: “Unending thanks to the teacher who continues to inspire me as ardently as she first did when I was, myself, a starry eyed 10-year-old (at Wayside) – Thomasin Savaiano. May we continue to pass on the magic of story telling to others who follow.”

And finally, from the ISW Head of School Claire McDonald: “ISW is delighted that Thomasin Savaiano and Becca Shelor happily spend their summer vacations in Winchester, introducing young people to the magic of live theater.”

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