Originally published on Seacoast Online
The Seacoast just added to its theater riches. The latest is Upside Arts, a company targeting youth and teens, owned and operated by Miles Burns and Seraphina Caligiure.
The new endeavor comes on the heels of Burns being fired from his job as Seacoast Repertory Theatre’s artistic director in September. Caligiure, the Rep’s former director of youth programming and education, resigned in protest of Burns’ firing.
“Right now, I’m really excited about this. My favorite thing is to write for young performers, and for their family to see it; to be creative, to create,” Burns says. “So, it’s exciting for me to get the focus on that, and be creating again. It’s nice not to just be a guy that’s looking over others’ (projects), but to sit down and create with everybody.”
Upside Arts will first present “Saving Santa Claus,” a children’s theater original play written by Burns, and a mainstage production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts. Both are scheduled to be staged at the Star Theatre in Kittery, Maine, Dec. 15 to 23.
The company’s team also includes Alden Caple and Joshua Goldberg, a former student. Upside Arts is a for-profit LLC venture; non-profit status is in review.
For the time being, Upside will rent rehearsal and performance space. It will work from different settings and spaces that best suit a production, Burns says.
“I think that’s cool, not thinking one building,” he says. “One could be at the Strand in Dover, or at this guy’s barn, or outdoors. That’s exciting to me.”
The company is renting space in Newington and Stratham for “Saving Santa” rehearsals, Burns says. The idea is to stay close to Portsmouth.
“If we get too far outside this area - well, we don’t want to,” Burns says. “We want it to be accessible for the community that fought so hard to keep this kind of programming going.”
Auditions for the “Saving Santa Claus” show for children ages 7 to 16 are scheduled for this Sunday at the Portsmouth Public Media studio.
The ultimate goal is to establish a home for Upside Arts and to grow a program that underscores confidence and empathy in a child’s life, Burns says. “It’s what the Rep did for me.”
Upside Arts will largely support the initial production with a GoFundMe effort, which will go online this weekend, production fees, ticket sales and volunteer labor. Much of the volunteer work, and some funding, is being done by parents of Burns’ and Caligiure’s former students, Burns says.
To date, support has included branding, venue research and donation, insurance and fundraising. “Volunteering time and giving us support, helping in anyway,” Caligiure says.
“We’re working on fundraising $5,000 with a GoFundMe campaign,” Burns says. “Right now I’m thinking - let’s make it to December. We’ll make it work. ... Seraphina and I are used to working with a really low budget. So, we’re ready to use it smartly, make sure we get to the next step, and see if we really have something here. I feel we really, really do.”
Burns says he grieved after losing his position at the Rep, a theater he was involved with since he was a young teen. Litigation is pending in the matter. But, this project, along with so many he’s working now, is time better spent.
A few of Burns’ current projects include directing music for “Shrek” at Portsmouth High School and “Miracle on 34th Street” for the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Exeter; and creative directing Pickwick’s Pitt Tavern Dinners this holiday season. He’s also playing keyboards for numerous projects.
Similarly, Caligiure is involved in multiple projects, including directing “Charlie Brown Christmas.”
For now, the focus is on getting Upside Arts off the ground, starting with “Saving Santa,” and growing programming as well as producing more shows.
“Our mission is about nurturing the kids, doing stuff so they can learn and think and be better people,” Caligiure says. “It’s not just learning a dance move, but growing them as human beings.”
What: Auditions for ‘Saving Santa Claus’
When: 1:30 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28; performances run Dec. 15 to 23
Where: PPMtv Studio, 280 Marcy St, Portsmouth
Production fee: $175 to participate
More info: Find Upside Arts on Facebook