What is VYT?
Since 1989, VYT has been a youth theatre making a positive impact in the lives of children and their families through stage productions, performing arts education and community outreach programs. We have an unparalleled passion for providing young people a safe and encouraging environment in which to express themselves and an unending commitment to making live theatre available to all children – be it on-stage or in the audience. For performers, there are never fees to participate, charges for costumes or ticket sales quotas for them to meet - just the hope that they will become the best they can be.
Each season, we produce five musicals and one play with young performers, ages seven to nineteen, participating as actors, orchestra members and technical support. Our productions are carefully selected for patrons of all ages to enjoy and to afford maximum on-stage opportunities to the widest array of young people.
Throughout the years, our nationally respected local theatre company has won numerous awards and accolades, including praise from alumni who are now in the entertainment industry. However, we are equally proud to have played a role in the lives of successful doctors, lawyers, business leaders, politicians, office workers, activists, volunteers and parents.
How did VYT begin?
Valley Youth Theatre was founded by Gary Lamble and our Founding Board Chair, Hope Ozer in 1989. Gary started the company as a labor of love for a handful of parents whose children wanted to perform, and their first stage was in the basement of the former Tower Plaza Mall. One of those parents bringing their child to audition was Hope, who believes wholeheartedly that the arts are crucial to the full development of a child. She could see that Gary needed some help and she convinced him to let her start a board of directors who could be great ambassadors for the company. Hope did not reach out to moms and dads of the children in the show. She sought out business leaders and professionals who could champion the organization and keep it sustained.
In 1996, Hope brought on Bobb Cooper. Since then, his innovation has transformed VYT into a nationally renowned and respected theatre company. His artistic direction and leadership, professional standards, meticulous attention to detail and supremely high artistic production values are what earned VYT professional status and acceptance as a member of Theatre Communications Group, the leading organization for professional theatre. He's been integral in establishing VYT's sustainability and far-reaching impact.
It’s VYT’s mission, every day, to inspire young people to be the best they can be through a wide variety of performing arts opportunities.
Through our process of creating a production, young people overcome challenges, build self-esteem and learn the importance of both accountability and responsibility. They also learn to manage their time and the value of teamwork. However, we also see them becoming more collaborative team players, more thoughtful communicators, more dedicated performers and more gracious individuals. We are equally as proud of our alum that put their lives on the line as civic servants as we are for those who bow on Broadway, every night. We’re most proud of the fact that, for the past 30 years, we have been able to play a role in the lives of those who are now successful doctors, lawyers, business leaders, politicians, office workers, volunteers and parents.
Does VYT welcome diversity?
Diversity is a cornerstone of our theatre. In fact, we are the only Phoenix youth theatre with no social or economic barriers for performers. Our auditions are open to all young people, our casting is blind to theatrical stereotypes and our cast members never pay fees to participate.
VYT performers don’t have to rent or purchase costumes and there are no requirements for them to sell tickets. They also aren’t required to have any previous theatrical experience or formal training. We just strive to recognize each child’s potential and to match their talent and skill level with the needs of each role. That means, our open casting gives every child in the Valley an opportunity to participate in our shows – regardless of their backgrounds.
What’s more, we cast only in terms of the talent required for each role, sometimes against preconceived notions. In fact, we cast a male actor as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, an African American actress as Sandy in Grease and many others that have gone against the norm for most theatres.
For people who attend our shows, our theatre is in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, readily accessible to all municipal transportation facilities. Our season lineups are comprised of shows that appeal to the widest array of interests, opinions and lifestyles and tickets to our four home-theatre shows remain an affordable $20, regardless of the patron’s age or seat location.
What are VYT’s community outreach programs?
Sponsor-a-Seat allows more than 1,500 disadvantaged children from dozens of social service organizations to attend a free performance at the Herberger Theater Center and enjoy a complimentary lunch with the cast and crew. Just $50 give a child a memory they will cherish forever!
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 magic of experiencing live theatre. Books related to the production and accompanying study guides prepare children for a production that helps them learn.
The Nigel Ross Scholarship Fund commemorates the special talents and unique spirit of Nigel Ross, a VYT Kid and victim of domestic violence. Supported by contributions from USPI and the local community, it enables young performers to attend the VYT Spring and Summer theatre camps Nigel enjoyed so much.
VYT offers eight-week performing arts classes, three times each year, as well as two, one-week Spring Break musical theatre camps and two, four-week Summer musical theatre camps. VYT’s students and campers enjoy learning the fundamentals of acting, improvisation, voice, dance and theatrical production.
While there are fees associated with our educational camps and classes, we always provide scholarships to children who do not have the financial means to participate. We are committed to making sure finances are not a barrier to experiencing performing arts and have seen first-hand how the arts heal emotional trauma, create self-confidence and instill resilience among young people.
Our HopeKids Program brings children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to a free performance, immediately preceding opening night. "Valley Youth Theatre is one of our most valued event partners,” said Angie Abfalter, HopeKids program manager. “The laughter, joy and hope they bring to our HopeKids is immeasurable.
Military and First-Responder Nights are a tribute to veterans and their families. Thanks to corporate and individual donations, VYT often offers a performance that provides complimentary seats to families of the armed forces, allowing them to reinforce family bonds and create positive life-long memories.
Field Trips provide a way for teachers to supplement under-funded school arts programs by purchasing tickets at a greatly reduced price.
How does VYT make money?
We strive for financial stability and sustainability, focusing equally on earned and contributed revenue. Patrons purchasing tickets and parents registering children for classes and camps comprise 50% of revenue and are critical to our success. The other 50% comes from corporate, individual and in-kind donors, many through our annual VYTal Affair, (with 92% of proceeds going directly into programming).
Giving back to our community isn’t essential to our business, but it is crucial to our culture and the foundation of all we do. To continue and grow those programs, we remain prudent in our operational expenditures and lean in the administration of our business.
One of the biggest challenges – which we’re beginning to overcome – is convincing patrons, donors, business partners and the media that, just because our performers are all under twenty years of age, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get a completely professional performance and high-quality production. The time, talent and dedication these young people put into every production is equal to that of any adult…if not greater. Just because these are “youth theatre” productions, no one should ever expect a VYT show to be less than what they would see on a professional stage, anywhere in the world.
We believe youth theatre deserves the same support, resources and respect as a professional theatre company. We prove every day, that there’s nothing young performers can’t achieve with the right inspiration and direction. VYT has taken the perception of youth theatre in Phoenix from a stereotypical community or school play to jaw-dropping, show-stopping, high quality productions that receive standing ovations and effusive professional reviews.
How can I help VYT?
There are many ways you can benefit VYT with your time, promotion, endorsement and funds. Here are a few:
Make a one-time donation or ongoing monthly donation
Encourage your company to sponsor a VYT production or fundraising event
Let us know about grants that are available in the community
Volunteer to help us during productions, at load-in or strike or in the office
Promote our shows by distributing fliers and posters near your business and home
Like, share and comment on our social posts
Write online reviews about our productions
Tell parents you know about our performing arts classes and camps
Have your company provide discounted products or services for our parents and patrons
Suggest VYT as the next charity-of-choice for your next fundraising event
Provide catering or a location for one of our fundraising events
Provide in-kind donations of your company’s products
Buy tickets to a show – they make great gifts for employees, family and friends
Participate in any way to one or more of our three annual fundraising events, VYTal Affair, Oscar at the Oscars and the VYTee Golf Tournament