Lizanne Schader is living a “lucky break.” Growing
up in North Hollywood, California and graduating from UCLA, Lizanne was surrounded by actors. She learned at an early age that acting was a craft as well as an employment opportunity. In 1988, Lizanne moved to Seattle, Washington to begin making her living in theater, first acting, then teaching and directing. Lizanne met her husband of 23 years in the Seattle acting world. Today, they have two “remarkable” daughters, a dog, and a growing non-profit children’s theater,
The Neighborhood Playhouse, in Bellingham, Washington. Lizanne’s business started in “a backwards kind of way”– first by offering workshops and character-trait assemblies in schools, then moving on to after-school drama clubs, school musicals, residencies and summer drama camps before founding the theater 10 years ago. Today, Lizanne is fulfilling her dream of producing local shows with local talent, introducing children and their families to different ideas, cultures, and situations.
Describe your business: Providing quality theater for children and their families.
What set you on your path to your business? Growing up, I was inspired by my music and drama teachers. Whether I was part of the cast, in the chorus, playing the lead, or being the stage manager, I always felt at home around the stage. Although I graduated in French Literature from UCLA and lived abroad in Paris, I still felt deep down inside that I wanted to be in theater. I finally took the leap in 1988, moving to Seattle to be a part of that city’s wonderful theater environment.
What skills/talents do you have that compliment your business? I’m a kid at heart. I love being around children. I am self-confident. I am organized which is a necessary skill for scheduling and planning productions.
What fears did you have getting started? I didn’t have any fears about the business itself because I knew children loved the opportunity to act. I worried about how I was going to balance my home life with my work. Since I started out in the schools, I also worried about whether or not the local education establishment would find value and legitimacy in what I was offering. I had concerns about how I was going to maintain classroom management while dealing with students of different ages and from different environments.
What was involved with getting started? I contacted a few teachers at the local schools that I knew and offered to put on free workshops. By word of mouth, my reputation and my workshops grew. I expanded step-by-step, doing what I could. Producing shows came later.
What were your start up costs? What are your ongoing costs? Since I already had the acting skills, my first cost was obtaining a business license for $30.00. I have spent about $20,000 – $30,000 on rental space, set pieces, royalties on plays, some actor expenses, and on printing costs for the scripts.
How do you get the word out about your business? Right now, promoting the theater is a weakness. Again, word of mouth is key. We also get a lot of attention from the summer camps we offer. We put up posters around town. We have a website and we have articles in local newspapers.
How much time a week do you spend on your business? 25 – 30 hours a week. I spend some conscious effort on the business every single day. It is always on my mind.
What have you learned along the way? Patience. Acceptance of differences and allowing those differences to matter. I have realized that I am a role model and that is a huge responsibility. Pacing is key. Taking the time to get it right. I have also appreciated working with teachers. They have helped me a lot in getting started and in spreading the word. I have learned that the key to creativity is teamwork, accepting everyone that is involved, discipline, and listening.
What do you like best about your business? Getting people to feel emotions when they are engaged in the shows and helping children to realize their own emotions when they are performing.
What do you see for you and your business in the future? Acquiring our own space for a permanent theater. Providing workshops during the school day for classes to participate in. Also offering afternoon workshops. Developing acting curriculum units for schools. Most of all, continue offering quality plays for young audiences and their families.
You can reach Lizanne at TheNeighborhoodPlayhouse@q.com
Visit the web site at TheNeighborhoodPlayhouse.net