ESSEX — Drama theater, for performing arts teacher Christina Napp, has always been therapeutic. In fact, on the day her grandfather died in 2007, she talked about funeral arrangements and then went to the theater to perform in a 2-hour stage play.
Now, inside of a full-service meeting space in Essex that has been in her family for three generations, Napp has started her own theater called the Zulauf Center for the Arts, named in honor of her grandfather, in part to provide the same tools that she had for getting through tough times.
“Theater distracts me from whatever is going on in my personal life and helps me escape,” she said. “I want to provide that for others.”
Napp, an Essex native, established the center to serve a community need for affordable, accessible theater and dance programs.
“My goal,” she said, “is for the Zulauf Center to be an arts destination for families to come for education and performance opportunities.” I want to help cultivate the next stars on Broadway.”
Napp, along with longtime dance instructor Shianne Williams-Brown, opened the center in the spring, and she plans to hire teachers who are well versed in the arts.
She herself started teaching dance in that building, and she remembers sitting in her mom’s office as a kid in that same building, listening to the tapping sounds of a dance group next door that had rented out space there. Now, she hopes to bring the same energy back with the Zulauf Center.
“I have never tackled something like this on my own,” Napp said. “I am excited to see it grow and for kids to find a love for the arts.”
For now, the center is only hosting junior musicals, starting in the fall, though Napp’s goal is to eventually offer a range of arts and drama classes for adults and kids alike. She is now recruiting kids for the fall productions.
“I love nothing more than seeing the kids’ faces when they work so hard for weeks, and at the end, they see that they have accomplished something and see how happy their friends and families are,” she said. “That is what it is all about.”
She said that she intends to foster a safe, inclusive community for everyone with the Zulauf Center.
“If you have a kid who loves theater or is sitting at home singing Hamilton, send them my way, because this is the perfect place for them,” she said, adding that theater groups are like close-knit families.
The Zulauf Center is offering two options for students 1st -5th and 6-10th grade to perform. The elementary school production will be Frozen Kids and the Middle/High School production will be Frozen Jr. Sessions will be held the week of 9/27 and will run through 12/18, all culminating in a final performance.
Classes are $ 400 per session. Space is VERY limited and will max at 25 per session. Email ZulaufCenterfortheArts@gmail.com to register.
The new studio space is located in Essex on 1546 Eastern Blvd.