Chandler theater prepares for first live production - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler theater prepares for first live production

May 28th, 2021 development
Chandler theater prepares for first live production

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Youth Theater is preparing to stage its first live performances since the pandemic stymied its operations more than a year ago.

The local nonprofit is currently holding rehearsals with more than 50 kids to stage productions of “Godspell” and “Mary Poppins” this summer for a live, in-person audience.

The shows will be the first theatrical production CYT has staged since “Newsies” was produced at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in February 2020.

Although the theater has remained active by presenting virtual shows, Chandler’s young thespians have had few opportunities this past year to solicit reactions from an audience. 

Director Audrey Ryan said her production team is excited to get their students back on stage in front of live spectators.

“I can tell the kids really miss feeding off the energy from the audience,” she said.

Actors will still be taking precautions to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 by wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Even during the actual performance, CYT will require every actor to either wear a mask or face shield at all times.

After spending the last year working under a cloud of unpredictability, Ryan said the theatre seemed to be in a good place financially to finally return to live performances starting this summer.

It appears to be safe for audiences to begin returning to in-person venues, she added, since vaccination rates across the Valley have remained steady for the last few months.

When shutdown orders were authorized at the beginning of the pandemic, CYT had assumed its theater would remain dark as actors quarantined from home. But students quickly expressed an interest in wanting to stay creative amidst the statewide lockdown.

Ryan and her team shifted toward filmmaking and began producing plays digitally by using cameras and lights to capture their performances.

Ryan said she wasn’t sure whether their theatrical skills would easily translate over to film, but the students didn’t seem to mind the transition and remained invested in the process.

“Registration has never been better during the pandemic, which we did not expect whatsoever,” Ryan said.

The filmed projects offered new opportunities for students to practice some new acting skills and to actually see their work after the production wrapped.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema let CYT project their filmed productions on their big screen and host red carpet events outside their theater.

The film projects have offered a valuable learning experience for students who had been more accustomed to performing on stage, Ryan said. 

But more importantly, the filmed productions offered an escape for local teens who felt isolated or disheartened by the pandemic. Since most extracurricular activities had been temporarily halted this past year, CYT was one of the few organizations to continue offering programs.   

“We’ve heard from kids and parents that attending rehearsals was the highlight of their week,” Ryan added.

So the arts suddenly felt more precious to the theater’s students at a time when the world felt so chaotic and uncertain.

“Not only was theatre something that they could look forward to,” Ryan said, “but I think it was definitely necessary for their mental and physical health as well.”

CYT will premier “Godspell” on June 5 and run through June 13. “Mary Poppins” will have three performances on June 26 and 27.

CYT is additionally planning to stage a teen-centered production of “Heathers: the Musical” this August, followed by a production of “Into the Woods” in October.

The theater hopes to wrap up 2021 with a winter production of “Frozen” in December.