Studio East finds new space to expand creative legs

Keeping up with the Eastside community’s growing demand for more arts programs, Studio East has found a new space to expand its creative legs.

The organization, which is currently housed in a 7,600 square foot building at 402 Sixth St. in Kirkland, is set to open the doors at its new expanded Totem Lake facility May 1.

“We’ve been in this location for 15 years,” said Managing Director Nikki Parish. “When we moved in here we were a tenth of the size that we are now. We’ve grown tremendously here and as we’ve grown, we’ve taken over more and more space here. We’ve pretty much maxed out and we’ve just been out of room for a good five years.”

Studio East is a performing arts and arts education resource for the Eastside community that provides classes, camps and productions for youth. Each year, about 2,000 students ages 4-19 come through the organization’s doors – and that number is growing, Parish said.

The demand for the organization’s programs is increasing, “but we’re confined by our space,” she noted.

Rather than renew its lease that is up March 31, the organization began looking for new digs last February. The new site, which is south of Fred Meyer in Totem Lake and nearly twice the size of the existing facility, will provide bigger studios, a rehearsal room, a larger lobby, upholstered theater seats, a parent waiting room, green room and a box office.

The organization has signed a 10-year lease for the new location.

One of the most exciting things about the new space is the large warehouse area, where the organization will be able to build sets. Studio East currently has a separate 1,600 square foot warehouse in Bellevue where they store props, costumes and set pieces.

“So while sets are being built, we can use the stage for other things,” Parish said. “So we’ll have more opportunity for programming.”

Last November, the organization launched a capital campaign to raise the needed $500,000 for construction costs. Organizers have raised $350,000 and hope to fill the gap by the move-in date.

“The parents of the kids are invested in Studio East,” said Lauren Formicola, marketing director. “They have such a loyalty to it.”

Lani Brockman, artistic director, said the new place will be a “wonderful gift for the whole community from our supporters.”

In addition to its classes and productions, Studio East is also present in 17 elementary and junior high schools on the Eastside and provides an after-school theater program called Artreach!

The organization also produces Storybook Theater, which is a production of professional actors that tours the Puget Sound area.

One of the actors in a recent Storybook production was Abbyduke Pollard.

“I am who I am because of (Studio East),” Pollard said.

She began at the studio at age 11, when she had just signed on with a kid’s talent manager.

The Bellevue native recalls the lessons her teacher, Brockman, taught her, which were “not as much about the theatre/film but about life,” she said.

Pollard took many acting classes at Studio East, including the Young Actor’s Professional Intensive Program (YAPI). She went on and received her BFA in Musical Theatre at Boston Conservatory and toured with the first national tour of Go Diego Go Live with Nickelodeon and Live Nation.

She recently moved back to Washington and now teaches summer camps, Artreach! and various classes at Studio East.

“The people who work there helped raise me,” said Pollard. “I owe them so much gratitude and love.”

Amanda Thomas also began at the studio when she was young, before returning as an adult. At age 14, she auditioned for the organization’s first musical and she was cast in the ensemble.

“I not only learned about being an actor, I learned how to be part of an ensemble, take direction and work incredibly hard,” Thomas said. “(Studio East) provided a safe place to take risks and be vulnerable.”

Thomas was accepted to New York University’s theatre program and after college worked as an actor, dancer and choreographer.

But something drew her back to Studio East, where she currently teaches dance and drama during the school year, and YAPI during the summer.

“Every day that I work at the Studio I am reminded of how blessed I am to be a part of something so extraordinary,” Thomas said of the organization. “I try to give all of my students the same experience I had when I was young.”

To donate, contact Studio East at (425) 827-3123 or visit www.studio-east.org.

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