By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – Now in her 10th year as the theater arts director of Apple Tree Arts in Grafton, Lisa Scarlett began her working relationship with the nonprofit community school as an early childhood music teacher in 2000. She was expecting her third child while taking her two daughters to the Tots and Tunes class at ATA, which was founded in 1989. Classes were held during ATA’s early years at the Congressional Church of Grafton.
“I heard they were looking for teachers and was interested because I missed singing,” she relayed. “Young children absorb everything. Their brain is very stimulated by music. Lots of studies say that kids who are exposed to music do better academically.”
Her interest in the performing arts began in elementary and middle schools. She became more involved while attending Framingham North High School. There, she served as drama club president and gained a comprehensive education in theater from the late Henry Schlickman of Marlborough.
“He taught us a lot and it wasn’t just about being onstage; it was about all facets of theater,” she recalled. “We built the sets, helped with costumes and did PR. It was all-encompassing with the directing and producing. I got a really good flavor for theater.”
Scarlett sang in the chorale at Tufts University while earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology. After receiving a master’s degree in teaching and secondary Spanish at College of Our Lady of the Elms, she taught four years at West Boylston Middle/High School. She also performed in community theater with Calliope Productions in Boylston.
At ATA in 2004, Scarlett helped with costumes. She ultimately began directing and producing shows. In 2007, she was named ATA’s theater arts director.
“The theater program initially started with elementary kids, grades two to five,” she explained. “Now, we have programs for kids entering grade one in the summer all the way up to senior year.”
A number of ATA alumni have continued to study performing arts in college and pursued careers in that field. Scarlett is pleased that some of them return to assist with ATA shows.
“They’ve become like a colleague,” she said. “They’ve co-directed some of our smaller shows, as well as stage managed, and have done sound and lights.”
Perhaps a love of theater is inherited. Each of her children has been involved in theater at ATA. Noelle is double majoring in theater and communications as a sophomore at Boston College. Ashley continues helping with ATA shows while a freshman at Salve Regina University. Ian is a sophomore at Grafton High School and runs lights for ATA. Scarlett’s husband, Paul, has served as ATA board of directors’ president since 2006.
For the past three years, Scarlett has also taught Spanish at Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School and Westborough High School.
In 2010, ATA moved into the Grafton Town House at 1 Grafton Common, which is currently undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation. The renovation includes preserving its Great Hall as a multiuse facility for the community. Scarlett is looking forward to the prospects of a renovated facility. She’s working toward starting an ATA community theater for all ages.
“Community theater is our logical next step,” she said. “A lot of our alumni still want to be in shows, so it would be great to have them come back and perform with us. We’d like to extend it so that families can do this together. It would be a nice opportunity for the community.”
It could also be a good opportunity for Scarlett, who sings with the ATA Community Chorus.
“I would love to be in a show again,” she shared.