New Artists to present Disney's 'The Lion King Jr.' - masks

Dan Almich displays a mask he and his wife Anita created for the New Artists Productions production of "The Lion King Junior," which ran in April 2018 at the Sprague Theater.

BANDON — Dan Almich, co-founder with his wife Anita of Bandon's youth theater group New Artists Productions, Inc., has died. He was 86. 

According to close friend and physician Gail McClave, Almich had been ill for a long time, but even from his hospital bed was putting finishing touches on the next play for New Artists, with auditions set for the day he passed, Feb. 9. 

Almich, who retired with Anita to Bandon, where they raised their two sons Daniel and Michael, never really retired. 

In 1995 Dan and Anita Almich founded New Artists Productions, Inc. with the intent of providing opportunities for youth through the performance arts. They funded the activities personally at no expense to participants. The program produced musical recordings for students who auditioned for school and state competitions, as well as producing recorded CDs by local youth bands.

When the drama program at Bandon High School was eliminated from the curriculum, the Almichs were encouraged and, after some thought, decided to expand their organization’s offerings by continuing the offering to the youth of the community as an extra curricular activity, again at no cost. The organization’s history of providing performance outlets to local youth became the foundation for the establishment of the community youth theater program.

In 2000, with the production of musical recitals and recording services for young people, the expansion of New Artists Productions took hold. After obtaining its 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, tax exempt status in October 2002, New Artists began formulating a plan with six high school students to produce Oscar Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest." The play was staged in 2003 at the Sprague Community Theater in Bandon.

The program has grown into an active company of over 100 young actors, with new students becoming involved each year. The program produces music recitals, variety shows, dramatic plays, musical plays, and organized summer camps. The biggest production to date was Disney's "The Lion King Jr." in April 2018. No student who auditions for a New Artists Productions show is turned away. 

Hundreds of children from all along the South Coast have appeared in the productions. Dan and Anita, along with Daniel, spent thousands of hours planning, producing, building sets and props, coaching and directing, along with every other aspect of what it takes to put on a show. Dan always came up with creative ways to make sets and props come alive and wrote many of the productions himself.

The Almichs also provided opportunities for children, including directing, choreography, trips to see Broadway shows, vocal lessons and more that helped hone the talents of the eager young actors involved in the program. 

Dan was also active with the Bandon Lions Club and in 2000, the Sprague Community Theater was built by members of the Lions, led by Dan and the late Ray Kelley, who put much of the structure together with volunteer labor and paid for it with donations and grants from many in the community. The Sprague Theater has since been regularly utilized by various local and touring performing arts groups, featuring theater, dance and music and has been the site for lectures, meetings, films and other events.

"It has always been special to see the young actors crowd around Dan after a play as they saw the pride of their success reflected in his eyes," McClave said. "He had unique praise for each one of them as he accepted their hugs and beaming smiles. This community is infinitely richer because Dan, Anita and Daniel chose this as their home."

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date, to be announced, at the Sprague Community Theater. 

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