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Friday, September 7, 2012

Tacoma Youth Theatre nurtures strong, vibrant community links on and off the stage

One of my best memories of 2012 will have been as a member of the audience the summer Tacoma Youth Theatre (TYT) opened their doors in a space shared with Dukesbay Productions at First Congregational Church, 918 Division Avenue, in the heart of Tacoma across from Wright Park.

Both organizations represent something wonderful in any vibrant, growing arts community - local theater. The added fact that both have more or less been launched during the long shadow of the still struggling economy of the past few years, is both an act of faith and a regional gift more wonderful than ever.

Tacoma Youth Theatre, created by the award-winning duo of Maggie Knott and Scott Campbell, burst upon my personal radar this summer at the beginning of August, when I happened to see a copy of a news release distributed lauding the enthusiastic turnout this summer showcasing their birth,  two open enrollment children's theatre camps and their first line-up of shows"Peter Pan" and "Alice In Wonderland".

Alluding to the success of their initial foray, Artistic Director Maggie Knott was quoted that the second round of performances would allow for an opportunity to hold open auditions, which in turn would make it easier to create the kind of cast dynamics that would allow these young artists to be even more successful.

If  "A Little Princess" and "The Importance of Being Earnest"  were any indication, I am certain that the very capable and talented cast of both productions will be part of the rich harvest of future performers who will bring years of entertainment, enjoyment and possible fame and fortune to South Sound audiences of several different generations.

However, even should these very same TYT graduates choose on their own to make careers other than those to be found in the theatre a lifetime pursuit, they will surely comprise the ranks of discerning and discriminating audiences whose rich perspectives will be reaped rewards in offices and organizations miles away from the stage where they were first discovered and nurtured.

My own lamp in regards to community theatre was lit during post-college days when I was introduced in Seattle to plays featuring stories from my own and other Asian-American communities at performances of the Northwest Asian American Theatre. How much I had enjoyed live theatre in the days prior to NWAAT, were multiplied when for the first time minority actors and actresses who looked the same as I did from childhood performed legitimate theatre on the stage in front of me.

Having grown up in a world and age when 99.9 percent of the important stories and performers who played them were Caucasian and noting too often that apparently people like myself had no stories and worse no talent or credibility in the eyes of hard-boiled veteran casting directors eyes to boot (save then rare and usually occasional storylines about exotic foriegners of the female gender ,who needed to be rescued by white folk) it was positively magic and likewise compelled me in fact to note that unbenownest to myself, I had missed this and the tears I shed when a NWAAT curtain came down  were taken to be proof positive they ministered to a need I had not even then been quite able to articulate to myself.

Both Tacoma Youth Theatre and Dukesbay Productions are examples of heroes in the South Sound's creative community who bless us all by taking the time and personal effort to offer training and a supporting hand to the professionals of tomorrow. What TYT does with youth, Dukesbay, spearheaded by veteran local thespians Randy and Aya Clark,  has modeled by teaming emerging theatre professionals with some of the most popular and established theatrical heavyweights in the region.

Perhaps more importantly, the Clark's have offered players and a stage to several local playwrights - perhaps the next national and regional literary giants such as John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams and Thornton Wilder.

If such artistic endeavors were to be supported by mainstream society with as much enthusiasm  as professional sport teams at all levels in the days not far from the present, our country in my personal opinion would be flowing with an overabundance of creative vibrancy at every level of society. It is what has been sadly and tragically missing  from the halls of government, social enterprise, business and other levels of the economy as a whole.

Perspectives honed in the arts such as local theatre offer individuals daily demonstrations power of diligence and working daily together to create something bigger and more beautiful -  but more clearly,dramatically and emphatically foster a stronger sense of a "win, win" teamwork and cooperation far more tangible than for example efforts by previously enshrined and elevated professional sporting teams during the past few decades who unfortunately equally polished an opposite which is that when all's said and done the world is full of losers, the most winning est teams and a handful of so-called perfect stars.

By quietly building the all-around individuals, gifted and generous citizens at all levels local theatre will serve to spread the talents and gifts of their performers far beyond the original floor and stage lights in the basements of spaces such as the First Congregational Church and so define the essence of what it really means to become a community.


JosephMcG said...

A stunning piec of writing...on target and prophectic in focusing on the liberating expierience of people sharing their creatiity with one another, and that segment on your experience iwhen you saw Asian people in plays that focused on their feelings, their gifts, and their power to help themselves mature... wow! That describes so well what I feel when I seAfrican American people in similar roles on stage and screen.
I hope many people read your blog and let it sink in deep inside themselves.

Lorraine Hart said...

Wonderful Mizu! Yes, yes, yes, we must encourage and provide stages for all youngsters to feel their stories heard.

It was in Theatre Arts I found my voice, and my home forever...but even if kids don't follow it as a career, the experience is invaluable for them. I'm glad to have had the experience of Southeast Asian Art and Theatre, and I'm sorry you didn't. What a wealth of cultures American children should have the right to feast their imaginations upon, and the opportunity to see themselves mirrored within, onstage. And it's not just different cultures and about different body images, and sexual orientations? Art is truly a way for all of us to 'walk a mile in my shoes' as the song goes.
I can't imagine what it would be like, to feel unrepresented, and Joseph is right, we should let that sink deep inside. Mizu, you are a powerful warrior with words...LOVE to see you write a play! Thanks for another great piece.