North Texas Performing Arts Announces Retirement of Plano Children’s Theater Founder Sara Egelston Akers
North Texas Performing Arts has announced that Sara Egelston Akers, founder of its Plano Children’s Theater, will retire at the end of May 2022.
Sara Egelston Akers founded the Plano Children’s Theater more than three decades ago and on that basis, NTPA has grown into the nation’s largest youth theater. Sara has served as PCT’s Executive Director and has overseen its theater operations since 1991. In 2015, Sara stepped down from her theater management responsibilities and assumed the role of overseeing the fundraising, community outreach and diversity efforts of the NTPA and is now the NTPA’s Vice President of Community Outreach.
“Sara’s impact on the performing arts in North Texas has been profound and her work has impacted thousands of families,” said NTPA Executive Director Darrell Rodenbaugh, who manages operations. of the NTPA since 2015. “Sara is an educator, counsellor, leader, artist, and dear friend. We wish her the best of luck as she enters this new phase of her life.”
“North Texas Performing Arts has blessed my life,” says Sara Egelston Akers. “Our staff, our artists, our students and their parents are so precious to me, and I feel so honored to see this incredible community come together to discover and love the performing arts. I am proud of what we have built and I am very grateful to our Board of Directors and our CEO for their outstanding work and support.”
Sara’s Plano Children’s Theater was one of the first youth theaters dedicated to putting children on stage, embracing a casting philosophy that any child can play any role, assuming an early leadership role in diversity and inclusion. Her work to use theater as a means of therapy for students with disabilities made her a pioneer in a study that has since become mainstream, and through NTPA’s Starcatchers troupe, which offers performing arts programs. adaptive show for students with disabilities.
“Sara Akers has been a vital and creative contributor to Plano’s performing arts landscape, and we are so grateful for her leadership and impact over the past three decades,” said Plano Mayor John B. Muns. “The city and the entire North Texas region owes Sara a debt of gratitude for the many gifts she has shared with us. We are thrilled to honor her as she moves on to the next chapter of her life.”
“We are forever indebted to Sara for the legacy she has created and look forward to her continued work as a volunteer, part-time director, and the passion projects she wants to focus on,” Rodenbaugh said. Sara will continue to serve on the NTPA Board of Directors, lead and teach, participate in its Arts Advisory Council, the NTPA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, and other efforts.
The NTPA Board of Directors, through its leadership succession plan, appointed twenty-year development veteran Patricia Gregory as Senior Director of Development two years ago, with responsibility for oversee NTPA’s fundraising and development operations.
In 1991, after a successful production of A Wizard of Oz at Grace Presbyterian Church, Sara Akers founded the Plano Children’s Theater with founding board members Rebecca Egelston Caso, Dick Anthony and Lanny Wren. Her parents, Dr. James R. and Carole Egelston donated the first $1,500. After two years at Grace Presbyterian, PCT opened a permanent facility at 15th & Custer in Plano which was later expanded to provide two performance halls and rehearsal studios. In 2005, PCT offered productions in McKinney and today offers programs in Plano, Fairview, Frisco, Dallas and Southlake. Sara worked with CEO Darrell Rodenbaugh in fundraising and development efforts to enable the move to the Willow Bend Center of the Arts in 2017.
“Sara Akers has had an indelible impact on the arts in North Texas over her thirty-year career. She has sparked a passion for the arts in tens of thousands of children, encouraging them to reach their full potential. ” says Katherine Wagner, executive director of the Business Council for the Arts. “There is no doubt that Sara has made our families and communities stronger and better through her vision, inspiration, determination and hard work. She is much loved for her heart and her contributions.”
Sara received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University with a major in Dance and a Masters of Fine Arts in Children’s Theater and Creative Theater from the University of Texas at Austin. She taught at the Lamplighter School in Dallas, and taught and conducted at Dallas Theater Center, Children’s Arts and Ideas Foundation and the Junior Players Guild. During her tenure at NTPA, Sara received the prestigious Athena Award from the Plano Chamber of Commerce and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Center of Plano. In 2012, Plano Children’s Theater was named “Non-Profit of the Year” by the Plano Chamber of Commerce and “Community Partner of the Year” by the Collin County Junior League. Sara serves on the Board of Child Protective Services, Foster Friends, Plano Rotary Club and is a member of the Junior League of Collin County.
The NTPA has established the “Sara Egelston Akers Legacy Fund” which will provide needs-based NTPA scholarship support, enabling young people of all backgrounds and abilities to have access to the best performing arts experiences provided by North Texas Performing Arts. More information can be found at NTPA.org.