Tag Archives: youth auditions

Rising Youth Theatre

Rising Youth Theatre founders Xanthia Walker and Sarah Sullivan

After completing MFA degrees in theatre for youth at Arizona State University in Tempe, Xanthia Walker and Sarah Sullivan knew they wanted to start a theater company, so they looked around and considered the community need.

“We noticed that no one was doing full-time, community-engaged theater with youth,” recalls Walker. They’d found the need — “creating original plays with youth based on their true stories.” And so Rising Youth Theatre was born.

At this point, says Walker, it’s a “pilot project.” The task at hand is “developing our model for creating work.” They expect to do residency work all over the Phoenix metro area for a good six months or so, creating a youth theater production and building the reputation they’ll need to move forward.

Once they’ve laid this foundation, says Walker, they’ll seek additional funding and partnerships. Walker notes that they’re already working with several Valley agencies serving youth — including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Flight 33 in Guadalupe and Barrio Nuevo Phoenix.

They’ve already spent more than a month working with groups of youth at seven different sites in Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler and Guadalupe. “We’re probably working now with about 1oo to 150 middle school or high school age youth,” says Walker.

“A team of resident artists work with us to facilitate story gathering with students,” explains Walker. Their current project focuses on “what it means to be an Arizonan in 2012 from the perspective of a young person.”

Walker notes that the artists use various methods to help youth capture and share their thoughts about Arizona — including improvisation, story sharing, theater games and writing exercises. They then look for universal notes, comments and stories that elucidate common threads and themes.

Playwright José Zárate, who attends each of these workshops with youth, takes notes that get translated into outline form — material that he’ll eventually craft into a play performed by Rising Youth Theatre. Walker expects to hold auditions around the end of February, then move forward with rehearsals and developing the program.

Auditions, shares Walker, will be open to both youth involved in the residency phase of the play’s development and youth from the larger community. She expects the process of developing the play together as a cast to take about six weeks.

“The play will have a full production team and professional actors performing alongside participating youth,” says Walker. Actors Ricky Araiza, recently seen in Childsplay’s “The Sun Serpent,” and Elizabeth Pollen, who performed last season in Childsplay’s “The Tomato Plant Girl,” have already signed on to the project. Both are energetic, vibrant performers.

Rising Youth Theatre recently became the resident theater company of the Phoenix Center for the Arts, which is sponsoring their first production. It’ll be performed at the center the last weekend of April in 2012.

Rising Youth Theatre is offering six theater classes for youth which start in January of 2012 and cost just $60 each. There are two for first through third graders (“A Whole New World: Imagination and Adventures” and “Choose Your Own Adventure”) and four for fourth through sixth graders (“The Actor’s Tools: Body & Voice,” “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “Clowning Around,” and “What’s The Story?”).

To learn more about Rising Youth Theatre, the “Arizonan Project” or theater clases for youth, click here.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read a “Stage Mom” review of an earlier work directed by Xanthia Walker which shares the stories of youth and families living with autism. Click here for information on other classes offered at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Coming up: Making my holiday reading list

Photo courtesy of Xanthia Walker


“Les Mis” light?

There’s nothing light about the musical “Les Miserables,” which trumpets through the fictional lives of young and old, honest and dishonest, industrious and indolent amidst turmoil in 19th century France.

It’s a tale of love, sacrifice and forgiveness that speaks to the hearts of mothers, fathers and children — as well as patriots, young lovers and more.

Not taking your children to see a live production of “Les Miserables” is the theater equivalent of never taking them to a baseball game. It’s part of the lexicon of American culture, which first gave rise to the art form of musical theater.

If you’ve been wary on previous occasions because you suspect your child might not make it through the entire production, there’s a shorter option with extra kid appeal.

It’s the “Les Miserables School Edition,” which is available for licensing by Musical Theatre International in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh Limited. (The name Cameron Macintosh will ring a bell if you saw the Disney and Cameron Macintosh presentation of “Mary Poppins” when the musical came to ASU Gammage last season.)

Licensing provisions state that the entire cast must be 19 years or younger, that no one in the cast may be a member of an actors’ union and that the work is to be performed entirely by full-time elementary, middle or high school students.

Lizabeth first saw “Les Miserables” at ASU Gammage a good decade or so ago and listened to the soundtrack non-stop for some time thereafter. She played the music on the piano and violin — and still reminisces about the day she sang “Can You Hear the People Sing?” for one of the student performances held each Friday at Desert View Learning Center in Phoenix.

The other little girls favored “I Dreamed a Dream,” but Lizabeth has always been drawn a bit more to anthems of the underdog.

If your student might like to audition for a Valley production of “Les Miserables School Edition,” take note of the following… (See important update at end of post regarding new audition/performance dates.)

It’s being performed in September by Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria as the opener for their second season, marking their first foray into musical theater.

Auditions are being held Sat, Aug 7 (and Sun, Aug 8, if needed) by appointment only. Auditioners are expected to “prepare a two minute song and a one minute monologue.” They should also “bring a photo, resume and be prepared to identify any rehearsal conflicts.” (Translation: Take along your family, school and activities schedules so you know when you’re not available to rehearse or perform.)

To learn more, visit www.csyt.org. You or your child can contact Jim Gradillas at jim@csyt.org to schedule an audition time.

Auditions are being held at a church called The Way in Peoria, which is home to CSYT. Performances will take place at Phoenix Center for the Arts’ 215-seat Third Street Theater.

To learn more about “Les Miserables School Edition,” visit www.lesmizschooledition.com. And stay tuned for a future post with more scoop on the upcoming 2010-2011 season at Creative Stages Youth Theatre.

— Lynn

Note: To explore other theater works licensed through MIT, visit them at www.mitshows.com. To learn about the touring production of “Les Miserables” coming to ASU Gammage for a brief run in June 2011, visit www.asugammage.com (it may sell out quickly so it’s not too early to start paying attention). To receive additional audition notices, sign-up with Durant Communications at www.durantcom.com.

Coming up: Spotlight on this year’s AriZoni Award nominees in children’s and adult categories

Update from Creative Stages website: “As many of you know, Creative Stages Youth Theatre is in the process of looking for a theatre space to call their own and we hope to have very good news in the next few weeks regarding the location and more information. So that our focus can be on finalizing the location and preparing the space with lights, sound, seating, etc…, we will be moving Les Miserablés to next April. The show will now be performed from April 15 through May 1. We anticipate auditions will held in February and all audition info will be posted on our website.” –Lynn 8/6/10

Think pink

Think pink. What comes to mind?

Cotton candy? A Cinderella-style ball gown? Naked mole rats? Bubble gum? Flamingos? Rainbow sherbet? Maybe even Barbie’s vast collection of houses, cars and fashions?

At our house, it’s a smoky gray long-haired cat named “Pink” and a couple of talking bears–along with oodles of bygone toys from Polly Pocket to Strawberry Shortcake.

But pink isn’t just a color these days. It’s a pop star. It’s a women’s health movement. It’s a musical.

Yup, you can now enjoy all things pink with “Pinkalicious, the Musical,” which “celebrates all things pink while showing that being yourself is best of all.”

It’s part of an exciting new season just announced by Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Here’s the rest of the scoop…

“Grease” is the word when VYT opens its 2010-2011 season August 12-29. Never mind that the song “Summer Nights” only serves to remind me of Arizona’s blistering heat. There’s also “Hopelessly Devoted,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “We Go Together”–which remind me of a fabulous roll through the 50s, a decade I just missed experiencing firsthand.

“Pinkalicious, the Musical” hits the VYT stage October 1-17. It’s based on the book “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann—which is refreshing in a day and age when our kids too often watch rather than read. Parents of pink-lovers take note: Pink outfits donned for the show can double as nifty 50s Halloween costumes. That’s more pink for less plastic. Priceless.

“Alice in Wonderland” devoid of Johnny Depp (some consider that a good thing) runs February 4-20 at VYT, which leads me to conjure images of tea party play dates and charming Valentine’s Day celebrations ala a trip to the theater. It’s another serious dress-up opportunity and chance to engage your child in both literature and live performance. Not everything happens on a movie screen, you know.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” comes to VYT April 1-17. What’s not to love about seeing someone else have an absolutely wretched day for a change? Of course, I wouldn’t pitch it to my kids that way. For children, its a great opportunity to realize that bad days happen to everyone—and that sharing feelings is a good thing when no flying objects are involved. Treat yourself to a good read of Judith Viorst’s tale of the same name before and after you enjoy the show.

“Annie” closes out the VYT 2010-2011 season at the Herberger Theater Center June 10-26. At this point, our country will either continue to be plagued by economic challenges or experience improvements that leave more Americans feeling secure and optimistic. Either way, Annie’s tale is a good investment. It’s a classic musical that serves to remind us that we’ve faced tough times before—as a nation and as individuals—and that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

“A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” also returns to VYT this season for a December 3-23 run. I find this one especially fascinating given that our family seems an odd pairing of Eeyores and Tiggers. I think everyone finds a bit of themselves in the charming characters of A.A. Milne’s “Hundred Acre Woods.” And what better anecdote to the stress of winter holidays than sharing the adventures of a bear and his honey—along with ‘sure to cheer’ characters like Piglet and Roo.

With that we’ve come full circle. So grab your pink pen and mark the above shows and dates in your calendar. If you’re not a fan of pink now, I suspect you will be after a simply “Pinkalicious” season with all things Valley Youth Theatre.


Note: Auditions for “Pinkalicious” will take place at VYT on Aug 2 & 3 at 3:30pm. For information on upcoming auditions, and ways to save money with VYT “season memberships,” visit Valley Youth Theatre online at www.vyt.com. Show tickets and memberships are also available through the VYT box office at 602-253-8188.

Coming up: “Twilight” tales, Summer of Shakespeare, Art and…babies?