Lexington Youth Summer Theatre
Working Towards a Common Goal
For over thirty years, the mission of Lexington Youth Summer Theatre (LYST) has been clear to all of the families involved in their summer productions: to work together to put on a show that will benefit children. Unlike many theatres, it isn't just for the children who act in the show or for those who work backstage. It isn't even just for those in the audience. Each summer, the cast chooses three children's charities to share some of the show's proceeds with. In fact, throughout the summer, cast members and their families participate in fundraising activities like car washes, raffles, and bake sales to supplement whatever profits the show brings in, all in the name of working together to help children.
"The kids realize that they're giving back to the community," says Leslie Goldberg, LYST board member and Public Relations Chair. "It's not just that we're trying to get as many people as possible to see the show, but that it's children giving back to children."
Early in the summer, a LYST parent who is assigned the job of charity coordinator identifies about 7-10 children's charities with input from the cast and then presents this list to cast members so they can learn about the charities and discuss the choices with their families. At a subsequent rehearsal, the cast votes on which three charities they would like the show to support. Last summer, for their production of Grease, the cast raised money in support of the Make a Wish Foundation, Room to Read, and The National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association.
Becki Dennis, the director and choreographer of this summer's Bye Bye Birdie, says that "involving the cast in choosing the charities is a positive experience for them and teaches them to think outside of themselves and the show. Sometimes actors can get so caught up in the finished product of the show and the stress surrounding that—the charities put everything in perspective when they think about those in need of the money and the big picture."
LYST's fundraising is just one aspect of what is seen as a larger communal work. Goldberg explains that "there is a strong, well articulated expectation on the parents, from auditions on, that the parents and the kids will be working together to put on the show. Everyone has a pre-production job and a production job. Parents are more than willing because they want to be part of it. It's like summer camp for parents—you get really close to each other, just like the cast does."
With weekly parent meetings during rehearsals, Dennis says, "It feels very much like one large family when you have the parents doing everything behind the scenes and attending meetings while the cast (their kids) are rehearsing in another room." And although some kids, particularly the older ones, may not always appreciate doing things with their parents, Goldberg explains, "the kids appreciate the effort the parents are putting in to make the show happen. It's one place where parents and teenagers can be in the same room and enjoy themselves!"
The cast of Bye Bye Birdie has yet to choose their charities for this summer. But whatever organizations they choose, both the parents and the children will be working together for a common goal, not just to create a great show, but to help children in need.
Bye Bye Birdie will be performed on Thursday, July 21 at 7 PM, Friday, July 22 at 7 PM, and Saturday, July 23 at 1 PM at Cary Hall, 1605 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington. For more information, visit LYST's website.