Linnda Durre'

Beverly Blanchette

 

BY Linnda Durre

 

Award winning educator, acting coach, actor, producer, and director, Beverly Blanchette is one of Florida’s treasures.  In 2012, she received the Randolph Frank Prize for her outstanding work as a Performing Arts Educator in Palm Beach County. She was a finalist for the William T. Dwyer Award for Excellence in Education for Career Education in 2005 and for High School in 1993. She received the Florida Association for Theater Education Outstanding Arts Educator Award by the Florida Association for Theatre Education. She’s listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and she was inducted into the International Thespian Society/Educational Association’s Hall of Fame for her outstanding contributions to secondary school theatre arts education.

 

From 1990 to 1993, Beverly worked with legendary actress Zoe Caldwell (Maria Callas in “Master Class”), who was the Eminent Scholar at Florida Atlantic University.  Beverly stage managed for Caldwell’s direction of “Lysistrata” for FAU’s Repertory Theatre.

Beverly Blanchette

Beverly recalled her time with Caldwell, “She gave me the confidence to act in Shakespearean plays as well as the ability to teach and direct his works.  Before studying with her, I didn’t feel competent to teach Shakespeare to my own students. Afterwards, I adapted and directed three Shakespearean plays, and my students have represented the Palm Beach Branch of the National Shakespeare Competition and performed at Lincoln Center,” she stated proudly.

 

“As a life-long learner, I just completed a fellowship - one of only 15 people - in the Hands-On Shakespeare Directing Program at the Julliard School, where I explored new techniques for acting and directing the Bard’s works while directing Julliard’s faculty and actors.  I also received a scholarship to participate in the Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance seminar at the Globe Theater in London, and spent two weeks there.”

 

Having had such inspiring teachers throughout her life, Beverly has followed the philosophy of “Pay it forward” with her own drama students. Her high school drama teacher, Ms. Oliver was one of the first to set Beverly on her career path.

 

“I was a struggling student who was told by my high school counselors that I would never succeed in college. Then Ms. Oliver told me that I should study acting.  When I said, ‘I can’t go to college,’ she said, ‘You can.’  I didn’t apply to college until it was almost too late.  With her short, positive statement, I attended community college and the rest is history.  Because of the will to try, I excelled not just in drama, but also in other subjects.”

 

Beverly earned her BA in Acting/Performance from FSU School of Theater with minors in English, Speech, and Education. She also holds an MFA, a Master of Fine Arts Degree, in Acting/Directing from Florida Atlantic University.  Not bad for someone who was told she would never succeed in college!

 

Beverly recalled, “I believe none of this would have been accomplished without Ms. Oliver’s belief in me.  As a way of giving back to this inspiring woman, I became a teacher.  I wanted to do for others what she had done for me.  How many children are told they can’t?  I believe there are too many to imagine.”

 

Inspiring children started when she began to teach drama, English, and/or speech from 1977 to 1993 in three Florida high schools - Amos P. Godby High School in Tallahassee, Vero Beach Senior High School, and Santaluces Community High School in Lantana.

 

Then from 1993 to 2013, she was appointed Dean of Theatre at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, where she directed over 100 plays and musicals, most of which were

produced there.  She also taught Acting I-IV, Directing, and Unified

Arts in addition to her administrative duties as Dean, which included

managing a theatre department of 275 theatre majors, five full-time

teachers, and three Artists in-Residence.  She also oversaw and

contributed to various Florida curricula documents, including the

50 page handbook entitled, Introduction to Drama Teacher Resource

Guide, which has been adapted and used by many other state and

national theatre arts departments; plus the State Drama Teachers

Exam and the Florida State Drama Curriculum.

 

While Dean of the Dreyfoos School of the Arts for 20 years, Beverly’s

leadership garnered their theatre department the title of the 2003

Outstanding School Award as an “Exemplary Theatre Program” by

both the Educational Theatre Association and the International

Thespian Society.  Her program included ten or more annual

productions with show budgets as high as $75,000. with all funds

raised through ticket sales and sponsorships.

 

She established a Jury/Senior Repertory Evaluation System, which

prepared her students for their future professional auditions,

applications, and careers.  She created or expanded partnerships

and internships with professional and regional theatres and the first

Emerging Artists’ Showcase, which presented graduates to

professional theatre and film communities.  She established

connections with prestigious college and conservatory theatre

programs as well as graduate networks in New York, Los Angeles

and Miami.  Dreyfoos School of Arts has long been considered by

many as “the best high school theatre program in the state of

Florida.”

 

Professionally, Beverly directed “[Title of Show]” which was called “one of the best plays you didn’t see,” by critic Bill Hirschman of South Florida Theatre Scene, and “Nunsense” at Showtime Performing Arts Theatre (Adult Series) in Boca Raton, as well as a staged reading of Susan Westfall’s play, “Two Weekends” at the Deering Estate in Miami and “Dirty Blonde” at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan.  She is currently directing three one-act plays for Pigs Do Fly Productions.

 

From 2002 to 2012, she managed a Dual Enrollment with the Dreyfoos School of Arts and was an Adjunct Professor, Director, and Guest Artist at the Eissey Campus at Palm Beach State College in West Palm Beach, where she  taught Intro to Acting. She was also the Director of their Summer Teen Theatre Program for the past 10 years.  From May to June, 2013 she was a guest Artist at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theater Training, where she taught the Monologue Audition Class.

 

Beverly defined what a good teacher and director does: “Like a microcosm of a school, the production of a play must work like clockwork with leaders who trust their workers.  One must delegate, but not micro-manage.  Therefore, I delegate management positions to my students.  I listen to their ideas and shape them into successful frameworks.  My students know that I trust them to produce good work, so they do.  When the show goes on, I am able to sit in the audience and glory in what they have achieved.”

 

Michael Higgins, a former director for 15 years at Florida State Thespians, remarked, “I have observed Beverly as both a director and a teacher and a fellow student in the theatre.  She is truly an inspired woman who knows that her education as an artist is never done!  She has very high standards for herself, is open to constructive criticism and can really direct a show.”

 

Beverly is currently an Adjunct Professor teaching Theatre Appreciation at Palm Beach State College, a guest artist teaching Advanced Acting at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater in Boca Raton, and is a private acting coach with her own company, Blanchette Directions.

 

When Beverly retired in June 2012, Bruce Linser took over Beverly's former position as Dean of Theatre at Dreyfoos School of the Arts. His awe was obvious when he stated, “Now that I'm on this side of that desk, I have even more respect and admiration for her than I had before. She created and developed this program, taught a full load of classes, directed productions every year, and managed to raise a family all at the same time. And she did it all with grace, poise, good humor, kindness, and an endless supply of patience for her students, staff, and administration. She was a great mentor and continues to be a great support system and friend.”

 

As an actor herself, Beverly has appeared in Palm Beach Dramaworks production of “ ‘Til Beth Do We Part” of the 24 Hour Theatre Project and “A Doll’s House”; at Mad Cat Theatre in “So My Grandmother Died,” in the Mosaic Theatre Company production of  “Talk Radio,” which received the Carbonell Award for Best Play, and Florida Stage’s production of the late Romulus Linney’s play “2”. Linney was a playwright, director, and the father of actor Laura Linney.

 

At Lake Worth Playhouse, she directed the play Crossing Delancey,  which had been adapted into a film starring Amy Irving, Peter Riegert and Jeroen Krabbe’ in 1988.  She has given workshops at Standing Ovations Performing Arts Studio, Palm Beach State College, and The Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

 

You may catch her on TV and the Internet in several commercials and infomercials, including Esserman Motors and CruiseOne, as well as in some FSU student films.  She is a proud member of Burt Reynolds’ Master Acting Class.

 

In addition to all of these accomplishments, Beverly has a wide array

of extra-curricular activities as well, which includes: the Director of

International Thespian Society Troupe 4990; Director of plays at

Florida State Thespian Festival, Florida Theatre Conference,

Southeastern Theatre Conference, and  international plays at

International Thespian and Edinburgh (Scotland) Fringe Festivals.

She was also the Director of the National Shakespeare Competition

School Chapter, which had seven national finalists.

 

In giving her students travel and career opportunities, Beverly was

the director of annual trips to New York for college visitations and to

Chicago for National Unified auditions. She was the coordinator of all

fund-raising and scholarship applications for students needing

financial assistance to attend these activities.

 

Beverly was also the coordinator of Master Classes with Burt Reynolds, Faye Dunaway, Sandy Duncan, Ron Palillo, Charles Nelson-Reilly, Ben Vereen, and Judine Somerville for her students at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

 

She has held many offices of the Florida Association for Theatre Education (FATE) including Board Member, Charter Member, and President, just to name a few.  She is the creator of the CAREing Foundation’s “We the Living,” an original substance abuse prevention musical that toured Florida schools, and she has continued on the advisory board working with other schools producing similar projects.

 

In 2008, Beverly directed a student production of “West Side Story” at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and it received an honorable mention on cable TV’s Showtime as one of the “Best High School Musicals” in the country.

 

In 2004, she adapted best selling author James Patterson’s novel, Maximum Ride,  for a staged reading and directed it, which was held for 6,000 middle school students at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.  She continues to work with the Kravis Center’s Educational Program, where she is a guest lecturer in their “Beyond the Stage” series.

 

What gives her professional satisfaction?  “I am proud of the accomplishments of my students who continue to study theatre arts in the country’s best college and conservatory theatre programs, some of whom have received Masters or Doctorate degrees and/or are now working professionally in the business.”

 

She continued, “Many have returned to Palm Beach County and are teaching theatre arts.  They are actors, designers, technicians, playwrights, composers, and producers.  Some have been seen in featured roles on television, film, and commercials.  Others have opened their own successful theatre companies in New York and have received awards for their productions.  Often I hear from graduates who say that by taking drama in high school they are more confident in their professions even if unrelated to theatre.”

 

And all this in addition to her 39 year marriage and raising two children.  We can expect to see even more great things from Beverly Blanchette. A life well lived!

 

Beverly is represented by four agencies:

Talent Direct – 561-276-4220 - Bianka Krausch

Famous Faces – 954-341-0588 – Paul Levine

Thespis Rose Theater – 954-430-2234 – Marty Marerro

Runways – 305- 573-1217 – Peggy McKinley

 

You may contact her through her website: www.blanchettedirections.com

 

 

 

 

©2015 Linnda Durre' , All Right Reserved