Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 91

C ommunity theater, often known for gained something invaluable: confi- supporting and encouraging aspir- dence. NAEF employed professional ing young artists, has a new home coaches with the experience and skills in the greater Sacramento area. that helped the cast and crew work as a Thanks to a new Youth Theatre For All team. Auditions were held in May, and program, launched by the Natomas Arts the cast and crew rehearsed through and Education Foundation, more than June and July in advance of the perfor- 50 children ages 10-18 were afforded the mances. opportunity to participate in a produc- tion of “Bye Bye Birdie” for free for three performances in July. Made possible by just over $18,000 in funding from a Creative Economy Pilot Grant from the City of Sacramen- to, an Arts Education Extension Grant from the California Arts Council, and fi- nancial support from the Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation, NAEF was able to cover more than $400 in expenses for each program participant. The launch of this program was significant, as it re- moved the steep financial costs associ- ated with youth theater for students at Natomas Charter School, and from the greater community. “Our goal was to provide a fun and educational experience, while at the same time removing every barrier to theater that we could control,” says Sier- ra Hersek, director of the Natomas Arts — Sierra Hersek, director, and Education Foundation and produc- er of the “Bye Bye Birdie” production. Natomas Arts and Education Foundation “Community theater is expensive, and not always readily accessible or afford- “The growth in the kids was truly in- able for every family, which is partly credible, but especially in confidence,” what makes our program so unique.” says Kelly Cullity, board president of Performing live for an audience of NAEF and director for the production. 150 every night at the Benvenuti Per- “There were kids who were terrified to forming Arts Center on the charter sing at their audition for the show who, school’s campus, kids not only got a by the end of the process, were com- taste of community theater, they also pletely comfortable standing front and “Community theater is expensive, and not always readily accessible or affordable for every family, which is partly what makes our program so unique.” center during the performance. The per- forming arts does so much for kids who struggle with confidence, and we saw that during this process.” Looking ahead, NAEF hopes to maintain the Youth Theatre For All pro- gram in the short-term, with plans for expanding the program in years to come. Securing funding will play a critical role in how the program moves forward, but it is NAEF’s intent to continue offering this program tuition-free, and to in- crease the number of kids participating. Founded in 2002, NAEF’s mission is to support all art and educational pro- grams because it believes a stronger arts community makes for a stronger com- munity as a whole. “In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of tuition-based youth theater in Sacra- mento, and while these theater compa- nies provide an invaluable service, those who cannot afford the tuition have lim- ited options,” Cullity says. “Without nonprofit outreach programs like ours, many lower-income families and chil- dren wouldn’t have access to the arts. Every person should have the opportu- nity to live a life rich in the arts commu- nity, and we are excited to be part of the movement toward ensuring access for all.” n Christina Kiefer is a communications consultant and freelance writer based in Sacramento who specializes in public relations, copywriting, content market- ing and strategy. A seasoned storyteller and wordsmith, she believes that great content paired with the right communi- cations strategy is powerful. November 2018 | 91