The history of the Astoria Performing Arts Center
BY JENNA BAGCAL
For nearly two decades, the Astoria Performing
Arts Center (APAC) has brought innovative and
culturally relevant theater to western Queens,
from productions like “Jump”, which shows how
a family deals with loss and grief, to the upcoming “Man
of La Mancha” based on the teleplay “I, Don Quixote”.
Founded in 2001 by then Executive Director Susan
Scannell Gilbert and former Artistic Director Brian J.
Swasey, the nonprofit’s mission has always been to bring
high-quality theater to Astoria and the greater New York
City area while supporting local youth and senior citizens.
The off-off-Broadway theater — meaning one that
seats less than 100 guests — produces revivals as
well as premieres of plays and musicals. APAC also
develops original works through readings and workshops
throughout the year.
46 MARCH 2020 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
Today, Artistic Director Dev Bondarin heads the
organization, which has received nearly 70 nominations
and 16 wins from the New York Innovative Theatre
Awards and an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Review Award.
A year after APAC’s formation, the organization
introduced its yearly Summer Stars Program, a free summer
performance camp for children ages 8 to 13. Over the past
18 years, hundreds of aspiring actors have gone through
the program, honing their skills through theater games,
vocal and acting training and learning choreography.
Back in 2016, Gilbert told QNS about the importance
of programs like Summer Stars and other free resources
APAC provides, including an after school playwriting
program geared towards middle schoolers and
performance programs for seniors 60 and older.
“Queens has such vast diversity, not only nationally,
but economically as well. It’s so important that everyone
have the chance to enjoy the arts,” said Gilbert.
The youth program’s funders include the NYC
Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of
Youth and Community Development in partnership with
the City Council and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
According to Bondarin, the continued support is
thanks to funders recognizing that “this is a quality
To learn more about APAC, visit www.apacny.org.
Photo courtesy of Michael Dekker/APAC
Photo courtesy of Bradley Hawks/APAC
A still from "Jump" at APAC .
Kids participating in the Summer Stars Program.