For the past three decades Dana Hanstein Hanlen has given one heck of a performance.
While perhaps there are no major awards shows for her category of nonprofit (educational) theatre, her work is in many ways overdue for a lifetime achievement award.
For Hanlen, however, her greatest reward is the affection in the hearts of hundreds of kids to whom her guidance has given them the self-confidence to star in their own lives.
Hanlen is the founder of the Musical Youth Artist Reparatory Theatre (MYART), a nonprofit, educational theatre company. Their upcoming production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” runs from Jan. 12-20 at the Millikan High School Auditorium in Long Beach.
“It is the thrill of watching the kids (and adults) “light up with confidence”, says Hanlen, who says “for all of my life, I have enjoyed the magic of theatre.”
Most of the rehearsals are performed in Los Alamitos and Cypress and MYART is the oldest of the nonprofit theatre companies founded by Hanlen and her partners. She knows youth educational theatre pays huge dividends for life, instilling confidence and self-awareness.
Hanlen knows that if she can enrich, educate and teach kids how to express themselves by instilling a love of theatre, their lives will be forever changed.
According to Hanlen, studies reveal that drama programs improve reading comprehension, problem solving and communication skills by promoting a strong work ethic, self-awareness, teamwork and discipline.
She intrinsically knows that once kids confidently walk off a performance stage that they are more prepared to walk into more confident paths of life.
Next year, Hanlen’s MYART organization turns 30 years old. Hanlen has been teaching others to love the performing arts since she graduated from California State University, Long Beach with degrees in performance direction and theatrical design.
As a kid, Hanlen performed on stage. As a youngster, she toured in many famous productions. From a very early age, Hanlen knew that stage lights would always be her destiny.
For MYART’s latest production, Hanlen was unafraid to undertake Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved musical “The Little Mermaid,” which is, of course, a hauntingly beautiful love story for the ages.
Brenna, Hanlen’s adult daughter, who grew up the in business, helps her mom with the administration of the company and not surprisingly has a role in the upcoming play.
For Hanlen, “it truly is a family affair.” Not only for her own family, but family for her means every kid who signs up to perform and even the parents who bring them.
One and all, they become part of her extended family.
A great example is Kevin Johnson. At a recent rehearsal, Johnson watched from the sidelines as his son Drew, who has a major role in The Little Mermaid, practiced his lines for the production. Johnson, after watching his son, would soon practice his own lines as he, too, has a part in the play. For Johnson, “it truly is a family affair.”
Tim Tipton, who serves on the board and has been active in the organization for many years, heaps mounds of praise on Hanlen for her professionalism, dedication and especially her ability to inspire kids. She infuses everyone with confidence, says Tipton.
“She gets it done,” he adds, saying the MYART organization “is all about family and community.”
Unique to Hanlen’s production is that everyone who tries out gets a part in the production. “Everyone involved gets to be on stage in some role,” she adds.
Admittedly, few of those who grace the MYART stage move on to enjoy professional acting careers, but Hanlen knows that everyone benefits from the self-confidence and self-awareness resulting from participation in MYART.
“We are not in the business of creating Broadway stars,” says Hanlen, but more in the business of creating self-confidence. For Hanlen knows that after three decades of teaching, she has given thousand of young adults “the courage to step up and become a star in their own lives.”
For tickets to “The Little Mermaid,” go to the MYART website at www.myart.org. There will be three performances this weekend and three next weekend as well.