Pitchfork Press

Cronkite Summer Journalism Institute 2012

Youth theatre provides building blocks, students spend summer wisely

Phoenix youth learn musical skills and how to harmonize their voices.

What do Emma Stone, Jordin Sparks and Chelsea Kane all have in common, besides being famous, beautiful and successful? All three of these stars are Valley Youth Theatre alumni.

Located on the southeast corner of First Street and Fillmore Street, Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) has continued to churn out great performers over the last 23 years.

Students are attracted to musical theatre from an early age. For instance, Kane, known for her work on One Tree Hill, started taking classes at VYT at nine years-old. For the kids who have shown a passion for reciting movie lines, singing in the shower or dancing around the kitchen, the VYT Summer Camp is the place to be.

According to VYT’s site for online enrollment, “In this camp, students participate in daily classes in the three disciplines of musical theatre: acting, dance, and music as well as participate in a production to be showcased at the end of the session.” The Musical Theatre Summer Workshop attracts kids from the ages of seven to 16 to participate in this season’s productions of Jungle Book and Once Upon a Mattress.

While this camp is an excellent way for student to expand their experience in musical theatre, it is also a source of comfort for working moms. During the summer, parents struggle with younger kids. They don’t want to constantly dump their children on neighbors or rely on mindless daycare. At VYT, students are productive, learn about something that is of interest to them and are safe from the summer heat and possible trouble.

Acting classes teach students to open themselves up in front of groups with “circle games.”

To make a positive impact on these kids, campers at the workshop work together during games and in the creation of the production at the end of the session. Lauren Antioco, VYT’s Director of Education and Outreach, expressed the need for the group to cooperate, have mutual respect and to listen to each other. With such a wide age range onstage, it’s necessary for the camp attendees to pay attention in order to put on the best performance at the end of their session.

Working mother of two, Patty Mousseau, said, “It’s a camp moving towards something,” in reference to the production at the end of the four-week camp. Her daughters, Kate, 6, and Emily, 8, burst through the house doors moments later with smiles from ear to ear and excited to tell Mousseau all about their day at VYT.

Antioco says, “We push each child to their individual best potential and really strive to get them to grow, and become better in their own skin when they come up and perform.”

Mousseau said that her youngest loves to recite movie lines. Kate revealed that she loved to act as characters from iCarly and various Barbie movies. Her favorite thing at the summer camp is dancing, said with much enthusiasm. Her older sister Emily enjoys the acting exercises that they go through every day. She adds, “At the end we do a really big play.” While Emily’s voice was much calmer than her sister’s, the young girl’s eyes lit up at the coming opportunity to show her mother what she had worked so hard for.

Dance students enjoy the attention of the camera on stage.

Whether students are looking to make it big in showbiz, stay out of the heat or become more confident in front of their peers, Valley Youth Theatre’s Musical Theatre Summer Workshop provides fun and a learning experience. Antioco said in closing, “I’m passionate about them walking away from this experience being stronger as a performer and also walking away really proud of themselves and having a great time.”

-Taylor Shaw, Text Editor

Legally Blonde at the Valley Youth Theater

-Video by Rebecca Smouse, Photo Editor

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