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By Ron Hellman

I’m at the Museum of the Moving Image, it’s April 1, but no foolin’, the Astoria Performing Arts Center is holding its annual gala. APAC has been around for 14 years and, by measure of 28 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations and six wins so far, leads the pack of the growing number of theater companies in Queens.

Its offices are at the Kaufman Astoria Studios with performing space in the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. Offering free annual programs for children, students and seniors, APAC is in solid with the Western Queens community.

The gala honorees are Jimmy Van Bramer, majority leader of the New York City Council and a lifelong Queens resident, and Ted Chapin, the president of the organization that manages and controls the creative output of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, as well as work of others, including Irving Berlin.

Councilman Van Bramer is an active supporter and advocate for the arts. He recognizes the well-documented economic benefits of our cultural pursuits, and stresses that they’re good for the soul and our quality of life. Perhaps he will be the politician who takes the lead in establishing more theater venues in Queens. Melinda Katz, take notice!

Among the gala attendees are Taryn Sacramone, former dynamic executive director of APAC, now busy with the trials and tribulations of the Queens Theatre, and Tom Wojtunik, APAC’s most recent brilliant artistic director, who’s still looking for the next big thing. Yes, you can go home again. Several APAC regulars perform for the guests, proving all remains well in Astoria. Its next show, Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” runs from April 30 to May 23. Although not well received on Broadway in its original 1981 version, the musical is a cult favorite for us Sondheim fans, has some of his best songs, and is not to be missed.

By the way, if you haven’t recently visited the Museum of the Moving Image, it’s bigger and better than ever, following its expansion four years ago. Its current major exhibition is all about television’s “Mad Men,” coinciding with the final episodes of the hit retro-drama.

You theater people know that the play’s the thing, so if you are a playwright, published or would-be, try your luck with the Thespis Theater Festival. Running from June 15 through Aug. 31, with submissions required by June 1, there is a top prize of $3,500 for Best Play, as well as acting and directing awards. Information can be found at thespisnytheaterfestival.com.

For you producers and theater groups out there, Theater Resources Unlimited, along with The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, host a panel discussion, April 23, called “Secrets of Successful Not-for-Profits: How to Keep Your Theater Company Going and Growing.” It sounds like it’s worth the $12 admission price. TRU is a good organization to be aware of – it helps producers, emerging theater companies, and all theater people “to understand and navigate the business of theater”. And, as we know, there’s no business like show business.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBHOFC@gmail.com.

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