Laconia Locale Heroes: Bryan & Johanna Halperin
About this series: Meet our Local Heroes, a special band of folks dedicating their lives to making things even better in the great Granite State places they have chosen to live and work and play.
The performing arts play an important role in bringing people together through imagination and community, and the void of connection felt through empty seats and stages spoke to hearts like Bryan and Johanna Halperin. “People were starving for community connections coming out of the pandemic,” Johanna says. “Theater is great because it is something live and shared in front of you instead of on a screen, which we were all tired of, and brings people together to do something creative and collaborative. People were itching for it, and we were given the opportunity to bridge a gap that we saw in the Laconia community.”
The Halperins — who both have extensive backgrounds in theater — created the Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative in 2020 to continue a program of smaller events at the historic Belknap Mill as the Mill’s creative theater group. The Collaborative strives “to create theatrical opportunities which brighten people’s lives, spark a passion for the performing arts and illuminate aspects of the human condition.” The theater company works with professional directors and designers to provide live theater opportunities for Granite Staters to participate onstage, behind the scenes and in the audience. Named in honor of the Belknap Mill, the group utilizes not only this historic New England building (which turns 200 this year), but also the newly restored Colonial Theatre, located at 609 Main Street. Larger productions take place at the latter, while smaller educational programs are held at the former (and additionally at Rotary Riverside Park, Laconia’s downtown, waterfront public grounds).
“What makes this partnership between the Mill and The Colonial so rewarding is that we are able to bring people together and bring life back into downtown,” Bryan says. “Our shows not only infuse joy back into the community, but into our entire team, too. People come on board from open auditions through the eight-to-10-week length of the production, and they end up leaving at the end with lasting friendships.”
Whether it’s someone’s first or 20th time stepping on stage, the welcoming, supportive environment the Halperins create offers room for both the seasoned veteran and the new kid on the block to find home, together. “We love getting as many people involved as we can and strive to put them in positions to be successful,” Bryan says. “We create a coherent product where everyone brings their own talents to their role and can be a valued member. It is our goal to build ensembles where everyone feels like their time and talents are valued.”
To date, the collaborative has put on over 20 projects of various sizes between the Belknap Mill and Colonial Theatre, and have plenty more to come with the goal of each production to be even more special than the last. Above all else, the Halperins strive to make the Lakes Region a place where art and history intertwine to collaborative, imaginative ends.