KIDSTAGE: Providing “Skills for Theatre, Skills for Life” Through Summer Independent

July 21, 2021

By now we hope you’ve had a chance to catch one of this year’s KIDSTAGE Summer Independent productions of Spitfire Grill or Jasper in Deadland. Or maybe you’re still looking forward to attending Urinetown, which is opening July 30 in IssaquahIt has been thrilling to be able to open our doors to audiences again for Summer Independent and wanted to share a little bit more about this wonderful program with you.

What is Summer Independent?

Summer Independent is unique to Village Theatre. It provides a professionally mentored production experience to students with a background in live theatre and gives those students the resources and support needed to produce their own full-scale show from start to finish. During this program, members of Village Theatre’s professional staff mentor the artistic team, who are considered professional interns. As a result, Summer Independent participants are challenged to reach the goal of attaining the highest professional standards possible and the program is an entry point to professional theatre for the entire production team. Many talented young theatre-makers who have been involved in the program have gone on to work professionally both locally and nationally at venues such as Village Theatre, Seattle Opera, The Paramount Theatre, ACT, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and On and Off-Broadway.

A Lasting Impact

The influence of Summer Independent on those involved with the program becomes obvious when speaking to some of the talented participants.

Jeremy Steckler, the director of Jasper in Deadland, became involved with KIDSTAGE 5 years ago, when he was 18, and fondly remembers being welcomed into the program: “I still remember my first audition for Sweeney Todd and how Aaron Alonso (KIDSTAGE Production Manager, Everett) invited me in with open arms. I was shocked at how kind everyone was to this kid they’d never met before. Strangers became castmates, and these castmates became life-long friends.”

Cast members of Jasper in Deadland; Photo credit: Sam Freeman, Northwest Theatre Press

For Jeremy, the experience of directing this summer has been invaluable. “This directing experience has been incredible. There aren’t many theaters in Washington that will willingly give a few students free-reign with a show–including having my mentor be the legendary Brandon Ivie (Village Theatre Associate Artistic Director)… Overall, this process has shaped me into the leader, actor, and director I have always wanted to be.”

Andrew Long, the Technical Director for Spitfire Grill and Urinetown, has been involved with KIDSTAGE for two years.  Although Andrew says it has been challenging to work on two shows so close together, he has felt incredible support from his mentor, Brad Bixler (Village Theatre Technical Director), and the rest of his team. “I will forever and always cherish the meaning of this program, which allows young theatre artists to explore their artistic vision in a setting where we are allowed to explore.”

Cast members of The Spitfire Grill. Photo credit: Sam Freeman, Northwest Theatre Press

Perhaps this is the greatest impact of this program, that the next generation of theatre-makers find themselves in control of their own art. If the three shows featured this summer in our Summer Independent Program are any indication of the future of theatre, we can all rest assured knowing the art form is in incredibly capable hands.

Join us for Summer Independent

Come join us to see what Jeremy, Andrew and the rest of the talented KIDSTAGE teams have been working on!  You can still catch Jasper in Deadland through Sunday, July 25 or Urinetown from July 30-August 8.

A Message from the Desk of Robb Hunt

Village Theatre’s Executive Producer brings you an update.

July 12, 2021

First. I want to say a very happy opening to our Summer Independent production of The Spitfire Grill. I also can’t wait for our upcoming Summer Independent productions of Jasper in Deadland and Urinetown coming soon to our stages. Our students continue to amaze me with their adaptability and the way they have continued to come together to make theatre whether it has been digitally or now on our stages. It has been so wonderful to hear the sounds of theatre being made on our stages again. 

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Congratulations, KIDSTAGE Graduates!

The Class of 2021 is headed out into the World and we know they are destined for great things!

June 14, 2021

“Skills for Theatre … Skills for Life” These words, the motto of our KIDSTAGE program, have become not only a mantra for the students and families that participate in our Youth Education programs, but also a galvanizing reminder to our organization as to why arts education is invaluable in young people’s formative years. Some students have participated in our programs for the majority of their lives while others have been with us for only a year. Regardless of their tenure, their dynamic contributions in our programs have been undeniable.

This year’s 55 KIDSTAGE graduates are making bold choices as they take their first steps beyond high school and embark on journeys to use the skills they’ve honed in our programs. Some will travel, volunteer, and continue their training as artists and performers, while others have made the choice to enter college in the fall. Schools include:

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A Message from the Desk of Robb Hunt and Jerry Dixon – Welcome Back Season

Village Theatre’s Executive Producer and Artistic Director bring you an update on our 2021/22 season.

June 2, 2021

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement over the last year.  We believe theatre represents the things we have not been able to enjoy in these long months and while we aren’t quite there yet, we are excited to be sharing the plans for our anticipated Welcome Back season with you. 

Based on the constantly changing reopening guidelines, the need for continued social distancing, and the safety protocols required by the unions representing our artists, we took a look at how to achieve success in the coming year. This means we have had to make changes. The original season plans we made and shows we chose have had to be put on hold. We hope to bring these productions to our stages in the future, but in the meantime, the possibilities and our return to the theatre we love is exciting. 

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AAPI in Theatre History

This May, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Village Theatre has curated information on AAPI theatre artists who have contributed to the repertoire and advancement of American-theatre throughout history. We hope you enjoy reading about these artists as much as we enjoyed writing about them!  

Photo credit: Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang

David Henry Hwang has been described by the New York Times as “a true original,” and by Time Magazine as “the most important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller.” He is a Tony Award winner (for M. Butterfly) and nominee (for Flower Drum Song and Golden Child) , and a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (for M. ButterflyYellow Face, and Soft Power). He is also the most produced living American opera librettist. David was born in Los Angeles in 1957, the only son and oldest of three siblings to parents of Chinese heritage. While a student at Stanford University, he produced his first play, “FOB” (Fresh Off the Boat) in 1979, which won an Obie Award for best new American play. After graduating from Stanford, David enrolled in the Yale School of Drama for a year. During that year, he wrote two short plays, The Dance and the Railroad and The House of Sleeping Beauties. David is probably best known as the author of M. Butterfly, inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly and based on a true story about a French diplomat and a Chinese spy. M. Butterfly garnered him a Tony Award in 1988 as well as a Drama Desk Award, a John Gassner Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award and it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. M. Butterfly has gone on to be staged in over four dozen countries, was made into a movie, and revived on Broadway in 2017 with Julie Taymor as director. In 2011, his play Chinglish, written in English and Mandarin, premiered on Broadway and was named Best New American Play by Time Magazine. David also co-wrote the book for Aida, wrote the book for the original musical-comedy version of Tarzan and, more recently, a writer and consulting producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series The Affair

http://www.davidhenryhwang.com

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Brian Yorkey Establishes Endowed Fund to Benefit KIDSTAGE!

April 19, 2020

At our successful February fundraiser, Sing it Forward, KIDSTAGE alum and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning playwright, Brian Yorkey, announced his endowment fund-establishing gift of $100,000 to benefit KIDSTAGE. Brian’s gift will help to ensure that future generations of students will continue to follow in his footsteps; finding their voice, their creative outlet, their connection with artistic peers, their sense of self, and their desire to make the world a better place through the performing arts.

Watch Brian’s Gift Announcement from Sing it Forward here!

Brian Yorkey’s History with Village Theatre

Brian’s relationship with Village Theatre began when, as a teenager, he enrolled in afterschool KIDSTAGE classes. Eventually KIDSTAGE offered Brian and his peers the opportunity to express their creative voice in writing their own material, setting him on a career path that has seen him become a critically acclaimed theatre artist. Through his participation, leadership, mentorship, and support Brian has become an inspiration to thousands of KIDSTAGE students across the nation. And although most people recognize Brian as the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright and lyricist of Next to Normal, to Village Theatre he is one of our incredible KIDSTAGE kids – doing what he was trained to do – using his voice and talents to make the world a better place.

Why a Gift Like This Matters

Anyone who has had the good fortune to witness the collaborative and supportive community that exists within KIDSTAGE quickly find confidence that students who emerge from the program will have a lasting positive impact on the World. And knowing that this is the legacy of KIDSTAGE – fostering the growth of generations of community shapers and builders – it is always incredibly meaningful when any of our alumni return to share their time, talents, or treasure.

The recognition of KIDSTAGE’s indelible impact in their life through reinvestment in the program – paying it forward to the next generation of open hearted and minded human beings whose lives are waiting to be touched in a similar way by KIDSTAGE – is the greatest validation we can receive.

The History of KIDSTAGE Programming

For the past 35 years, Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE has deeply held the belief that participation in the arts helps youth to realize and achieve their fullest potential. And that because of this incredible power the arts have to be a positive influence, eliminating barriers to enriching artistic experiences was of the utmost importance.

With this as a guiding principle, KIDSTAGE has grown from a fledgling after-school program in Issaquah to the most robust theatre education center in the Pacific Northwest, serving hundreds of students annually from across the Puget Sound and offering comprehensive theatre training in both Issaquah and Everett. But perhaps KIDSTAGE’s greatest achievement is that it doesn’t use the number of alumni who achieve professional theatrical careers as its barometer for success. It celebrates all the divergent paths is students take, knowing that they have emerged from KIDSTAGE empowered by the skills they have attained there and positioned to be impactful and empathetic members of society.

More Information

If you are interested in learning how you can join Brian in his investment to guarantee future generations access to cost barrier free arts-education and include KIDSTAGE as a part of your legacy, please contact Development Associate, Kevin Vortmann, kvortmann@villagetheatre.org.

KIDSTAGE Originals Festival: Meet the Writers and Cast

View online March 27-28
Reserve tickets on our website

KIDSTAGE Originals is an original musical project created by emerging theatre artists. Students in grade 9 – Age 20 generate their own material under the mentorship and guidance of a professional writing, composing, and directing team. The program emphasizes the process of creating a script from the initial concept to the stage. This year the entire process has taken place online via Zoom with the culmination of the KIDSTAGE Originals Festival on March 27 and 28.

The KIDSTAGE Originals Festival will consist of four readings of in-progress scripts created by KIDSTAGE students. Each script reading will be a creative combination of live reading, recorded songs, and other inventive ways to tell the story in a digital medium. Shows may be presented as abridged works or as works in progress, with the goal of sharing these original stories in an engaging and informative presentation. Each reading will culminate with a talkback with the writers about the show and process.

KIDSTAGE Originals Festival Schedule:
Saturday March 27
2:00pm PST – The Gray Area (A Tale of Sonder and Shoes)
7:00pm PST – Not So Grim

Sunday March 28
2:00pm PST – Dumb Club
7:00pm PST – Art Without Boundaries

The Festival is free! Visit our website to reserve your tickets for each reading.

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Village Theatre Receives $3 Million Donation to Help Emerge from Pandemic Closure

“Investments in the performing arts are a powerful means of fostering inclusion, healing, and inspiration. Village Theatre provides a place for people from different cultures, ideas, and walks of life to unite through beautiful imagery, music, movement, and compelling stories.” -Anonymous Donor

March 10, 2020

After one year to the week with its doors shuttered, Village Theatre is humbled to announce that it has received a sustaining gift of $3 million from an anonymous local donor. This deeply meaningful and critical donation comes as the organization plots out its strategic return to the stage from administrative, operational, and artistic standpoints, and significantly helps to ensure that Village Theatre will be able to return to regular operations in the post-pandemic world to carry forward its 42-year legacy of producing premium musical theatre. While this generous gift goes a long way to ensure Village Theatre’s successful return to the stage, the donor made this gift in the hope of inspiring others to make an additional investment in Village Theatre’s future, and to provide for financial contingencies due to COVID-19.

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