After a 2-year hiatus, Valley Youth Theater is reopening with the world premiere of Dear 2020!, Friday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m. at the Valley Youth Theater.
Written and performed by young people from the Valley, Cher 2020! gives audiences insight into the often humorous and sometimes tragic ways in which 2020 and the global pandemic have affected the way we live. Audience members and child actors will interact in this cathartic play about growing up in this “new normal,” as they share their experiences, bond, heal, and navigate uncharted territory together.
According to VYT Production Artistic Director Bobb Cooper, “This show is truly what Valley Youth Theater is all about. We have seen this pandemic take a huge toll on our young people and their mental health. Our children needed a place to express their experiences and not be dominated by adults.I am honored that these children felt safe and supported in this project to share their stories with us.
Fourteen-year-old ASU Prep Freshman Kylan Chait agrees. “I am honored to be part of this cast who have been chosen for their unique voices and perspectives on this pandemic. Valley Youth Theater sets the standard for how children should be treated…”. Kylan is also the Student Director of Dear 2020!
The cast members, who range in age from 9 to 17, began writing about their experiences with a series of monologues about the bright spots, poignant moments and humorous observations about the pandemic. With additional writing prompts from Cooper and VYT staff members as well as online discussions, a long story began to form. Valley Youth Theater Director of Education and Outreach, Madolyn Whitmer, and student playwright, Petra Danek, transformed the monologues and writings into a performance piece.
Explains Cooper, “Adults have spoken enough about the pandemic. These children have so much to say and haven’t had the opportunity to have their voices heard. We hope this will open a dialogue between the children of the Valley. and their adults on how the pandemic What we’re seeing is that we’ve all had so many shared experiences.While some may have felt lonely and isolated, we’ve all been through this together.
Dear 2020! is sponsored in part by a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Last year, Valley Youth Theater was one of 10 Arizona nonprofits to participate in the Commission’s Creative Youth Development Cohort, an initiative that invests in arts and culture organizations and programs that focus the voice of young people throughout Arizona. Piloted in 2020-2021, the CYD investment cohort operates as an amalgamation of a cohort and a grant program. The program aims to bring together a diverse cohort of youth and adult accomplices to share resources and struggles and engage with knowledge experts in the field to advance their skills as creative youth development practitioners. Kylan Chait was the youth representative and Madolyn Whitmer was the adult accomplice representing the Valley Youth Theater in the cohort.
Dear 2020! will host both in-person and virtual field trips, as well as VYT’s Literacy and The Arts program, the award-winning program that provides students in Title 1 schools with a page-to-page experience by combining learning at school with live theater experience. Production-related books and accompanying study guides are provided for children before seeing the show.
Produced and directed by Cooper with student director Chait, was written by the 2020 Cher! Cast and scripted by Whitmer with student playwright, Danek. The show’s interactive media was created by Skygate Pictures, with lighting design by Jeff A. Davis, sound design by Tom Holmberg, and costume design by Karol Cooper. The production manager is Morgan McCall.
In addition to the opening night, public performances include Saturdays February 26, March 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. and Sundays February 27, March 6 and 13 at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. The theater is located at 525 North First Street in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $22.50 and can be purchased at www.vyt.com.
Dear 2020! marks the first main stage performance for VYT since February 2020. In order to keep its young performers healthy, audience members will be required to wear masks at all times in the theater.
Valley Youth Theater’s mission is to inspire young people to be their best through a variety of performing arts opportunities. In addition to their main stage performances, VYT offers eight-week fall, winter, and spring performing arts classes, as well as spring break and summer camps. VYT’s ongoing community programs include Literacy and the Arts, Sponsor-a-Seat, and the Nigel Ross Scholarship Fund as well as their annual fundraising event, the VYTal Affair (Valley Youth Theater Applauds Leadership ), in August.
For more information about Valley Youth Theatre, visit www.vyt.com.