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Embassy and Fort Wayne Youtheatre SCORE a Great Collaboration

If you want to know why Fort Wayne has so many talented and dedicated performers, look no further than the rich history of Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Thousands of students have walk through their doors and attended their classes, and the professional quality of their performances speaks to the faculty who share their talents with young hopefuls.

This summer has been a busy one for Youtheatre, a marked difference from last year when activities were either canceled or greatly restricted. Youtheatre was one of the early adopters of protocols, taking the COVID threat seriously from the beginning while finding creative ways to stay connected and active. This June saw them return to their usual camps including collaborations with other arts organizations. Working with Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Youtheatre hosted Rising Stars Dance and Drama Camps for grades 3-12. They also hosted MAD2 Camp with Fort Wayne Ballet and Fort Wayne Children’s Choir hosted by First Presbyterian Theatre.

But there is still more to come. First Presbyterian will host Youtheatre’s Rising Stars Camp (again for grades 3-12) July 12-16 with classes running 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Cost for the camp is $200. And this year Youtheatre will collaborate with the historic Embassy Theatre to on their annual summer camp SCORE. Middle school students are the participants for this amazing opportunity to learn and to work in the amazing theatre.

“We love collaborating with the Embassy,” said Todd Espeland, executive director of Youtheatre. “[Embassy Executive Director] Kelly Updike is so great to work with. We’ve been collaborating with the Embassy already. They’ve allowed us use of their rehearsal space, and we work with them on Breakfast with Santa and recently performed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe there. SCORE is a beautiful and exciting program. It allows youth a chance to discover their own voices, and that’s a noble thing to do.”

Although not a new program for the Embassy, this year marks the first time in tandem with Youtheatre, a perfect pairing for organizations who routinely mentor young artists in our area. Participants build a show from the ground up – writing, designing costumes and sets, playing the music, and performing their creation. Although many restrictions are loosening, SCORE will still encourage distancing and masks, and the change to half day programming is also a nod to our still unusual circumstances. The camp runs July 6-23, Mondays-Fridays 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The cost for camp is $325 and registration is available through the Embassy website. A performance of the final piece will take place at the Embassy on July 25.

After a tumultuous 2020-21 season, one which was never firmly announced due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, Fort Wayne Youtheatre has a full season planned for 2021-22 including a return to their tours of local schools and libraries. The season kicks off in October with a production of Charlotte’s Web followed in December by Elf the Musical, Jr. March, also Women’s History Month, will bring the Linda Ruffalo Young Heroes of Conscience Series, this year featuring Making “Little Women”: Louisa May Alcott followed in May with the first in Youtheatre’s “Friendly Shakespeare” series, kicking off with a shortened version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The fall tour will bring the return of WYTR Halloween Tales (available both online and in-person), and in the spring, the tour will feature The Mixed-Up World of Hans Christian Andersen. [In the spirit of full disclosure, this author is collaborating on the Louisa May Alcott script with playwright/director Gregory Stieber and his protégé, Katerena Burke.]

But first the focus is on the July camps and the new team Youtheatre has built with the Embassy Theatre for SCORE.

“Being in the Embassy for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had such an impact on our kids,” Espeland said. “It’s so great for them to perform in a theatre like the Embassy. I want the kids to know that this theatre is part of their heritage, and that now they are a part of that history.”

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