Now in our 32nd season, Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) is celebrating the impact we’ve made on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families through stage productions, classes, camps and community outreach programs. According to Producing Artistic Director, Bobb Cooper, “We aren’t about performing arts, first. We’re about building leaders, first. Our goal is to have VYT truly mean something on our alumni’s resumes. That’s why we do more than produce shows. We embolden children to take risks in a safe, encouraging environment, while simultaneously teaching them essential life skills.” It all begins with what are called “Bobb’s Rules of Respect.” All children who become part of the VYT program are taught the importance of promptness, truthfulness, kindness, reliability, dedication, perseverance, listening to others, taking direction, being prepared, being present, being tidy – and being brave. Those things just happen to be taught through children’s love of dancing, singing, acting and watching live theatre.
From the moment a young person walks through VYT’s doors, they are shown how powerful, positive and accessible live theatre can be. For those who audition, there are never fees, charges for costumes or ticket sales quotas for them to meet. There are also no experience or education requirements. VYT’s truly open casting calls give all Valley children the opportunity to gain onstage experience by performing in a professional-quality production. The same is true for our backstage youth crews and orchestra members. For those who attend camps and classes, VYT helps children discover the talents they already have and hone the tools they may need to sharpen. They offer a variety of workshops for every skill level – beginning with age three and spanning to seventeen. Whether they are natural born performers or just looking to socialize,VYT’s students enjoy learning the fundamentals of acting, improvisation, voice, dance and musical theatre. For children in the community, Sponsor-a-Seat allows disadvantaged children from dozens of social service organizations to attend a free VYT performance at the Herberger Theater Center and enjoy a complimentary lunch with the cast and crew. Literacy and the Arts gives students from Title 1 schools a page-to-stage experience by effectively combining the power of in-school learning with the enchantment of experiencing live theatre. Books related to the production and accompanying study guides prepare children for a production that helps them learn. VYT’s HopeKids program brings children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to a free performance, immediately preceding opening night. Military Night offers complimentary tickets for select performances to families of the armed forces, allowing them to reinforce family bonds and create positive life-long memories.
Throughout the years, VYT has won many awards and accolades, including praise from alumni who are now in the entertainment industry. Notable alumni include Emma Stone, Jordin Sparks, Kimiko Glenn, Chelsea Kane, Max Crumm, Matt Dallas, Columbus Short and Nick Cartell. However, according to Cooper, “I am equally as proud of our alum that put their lives on the line as civic servants as I am for those who take a bow on Broadway, every night. I’m very proud of the fact that we have been able to play a role in the lives of successful doctors, lawyers, business leaders, politicians, office workers, activists, volunteers and parents.”
VYT relies on volunteers, grants, in-kind donations and corporate sponsorships in order to offer our social programs, facilitate our theatre operations and remain fee-free to performers. Although giving is done throughout the year, our three primary fundraising events are Billie Jo Herberger Presents Oscar at The Oscars viewing party, in February, VYTee Golf Classic, in May, and VYTal (Valley Youth Theatre Awards Leadership) Affair, in August. Since 1989, VYT has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of children and their families through performances, workshops, showcases and youth development programs. Representing all socio-economic backgrounds, we allow them to act, dance and sing in a safe setting. There are never fees, charges for costumes or ticket sales quotas for them to meet, just the hope that they will become the best people they can be.