Local award-winning children’s theatre company, Valley Youth Theatre (VYT), had to cancel the last two shows of their 31st season and all upcoming performing arts camps and classes for the spring. With no incoming revenue, they have decided to look to the future and launch their “Invest in VYT” campaign, awarding a ticket to each of their next six productions for every $100 invested in VYT during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Bobb Cooper, Valley Youth Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, “The marquee of our Downtown theatre currently reads, ‘We’re all in this together,’ which is one of the most inspiring songs from High School Musical, selected to be our next season opener, early last Fall. At that time, we had no idea how deeply poignant and universally relevant that theme would become, this year.”
On March 13, VYT canceled their April 3-19 production of Dear Edwina, which had already been cast with talented young Valley performers and for which rehearsals had already begun. They also canceled their Spring camps and classes, which many children were looking forward to attending. Then, on April 8, they announced their decision to postpone what was to be their lavish, large-cast return of Peter Pan, which was to be held at The Herberger Theater Center, June 12-28, and their May 8 VYTee Golf Classic fundraiser, thereby eliminating all earned revenue between March and August.
Cooper added, “Instead of simply holding out a hand to ask for money, we want to give back the gifts that we have to offer – those of young people working together to create stunning, entertaining and uplifting works of performing art. So, for a limited time, we are offering one ticket to each of our next six productions for every $100 investment in the future of our theatre. In comparison, purchasing individual tickets to these six shows would typically cost almost twice that amount.”
Cooper and his team are virtually meeting with their VYTeens performance troupe, twice each week, to talk about the future of their theatre and the profound moments experienced, each day. They also share the silver linings that exist in each of their lives, throughout this ordeal. Additionally, VYT’s Education Director, Madolyn Whitmer, is teaching private online acting lessons and Cooper is speaking with alumni about a reunion concert, once Phoenicians can, once again, assemble.
According to VYT’s Managing Director, Suzie Martin, “We are doing our best to strike a balance between what are the most sound decisions for the greater good and those that allow us to continue our mission of helping young people be the best they can be. We know that young people need a safe place to be creative and explore or sharpen their talents, so we are determining ways to provide meaningful content that allows them to engage in innovative ways.”
As the team continues to remain positive and look toward a future that includes live theatre, they are finding new ways to fund future productions. By securing funding for licenses, venue rental, sets, costumes, designers and guest artists, they can continue their cornerstone of offering fee-free participation in their shows and maintaining their relatively low ticket prices, ensuring their plays and musicals are accessible to the widest array of performers and largest audience possible.
People can participate in the new “Invest in VYT” program by going to the theatre’s website, at www.vyt.com. The next six VYT productions will be High School Musical, Spookly the Square Pumpkin, A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail, Sleeping Beauty, Junie B Jones the Musical and Peter Pan.