For nearly two decades, the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) has brought innovative and culturally relevant theater to western Queens, from productions like “Jump”, which shows how a family deals with loss and grief, to the upcoming “Man of La Mancha” based on the teleplay “I, Don Quixote”.
Founded in 2001 by then Executive Director Susan Scannell Gilbert and former Artistic Director Brian J. Swasey, the nonprofit’s mission has always been to bring high-quality theater to Astoria and the greater New York City area while supporting local youth and senior citizens.
The off-off-Broadway theater — meaning one that seats less than 100 guests — produces revivals as well as premieres of plays and musicals. APAC also develops original works through readings and workshops throughout the year.
Today, Artistic Director Dev Bondarin heads the organization, which has received nearly 70 nominations and 16 wins from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards and an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Review Award.
A year after APAC’s formation, the organization introduced its yearly Summer Stars Program, a free summer performance camp for children ages 8 to 13. Over the past 18 years, hundreds of aspiring actors have gone through the program, honing their skills through theater games, vocal and acting training and learning choreography.
Back in 2016, Gilbert told QNS about the importance of programs like Summer Stars and other free resources APAC provides, including an after school playwriting program geared towards middle schoolers and performance programs for seniors 60 and older.
“Queens has such vast diversity, not only nationally, but economically as well. It’s so important that everyone have the chance to enjoy the arts,” said Gilbert.
The youth program’s funders include the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with the City Council and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
According to Bondarin, the continued support is thanks to funders recognizing that “this is a quality program.”