With directors, youth theater comes full circle

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In the summer months of June and July, three Watertown Mayer High School Alumni gather in the Performing Arts Center(PAC), Monday through Thursday. Lauren Keyes and Hannah and Jake Rosholt are putting on the Summer Youth Theater (SYT) Program. This summer, the program is marking it’s 29th year.

Summer Youth Theatre rehearses Monday – Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for 7 weeks, before the premiere in the last weekend of July. Here the kids rehearse with their alien tribes on the planet “Garaha”. CCN/Hannah Broadbent.

“It started when community members saw that there was a need for community theater,” Hannah Rosholt said.

She said it only took one year for Lenore Larson, SYT founder, to realize that they needed original work that could feature 30 to 40 students. Rosholt said the big goal is that they don’t cut anyone.

“The goal is to make every person on stage know that they are valued,” she said.
Hannah and Jake are now the co-writers of the productions, They said their intention is to write for 40 kids.

Hannah Rosholt has been the director now for six years and started as directing the music her for it her senior year of high school. Keyes has been involved for 16 years now. She participated on stage when she was in high school, started directing music and now is in her fourth year as the composer.

“The beautiful part is that since they’re original we can let each kid really shine,” Rosholt said.

Rosholt and Keyes gave examples like, if one kid can rap, they will try to write that into the show. If one kid can do back flips they think of ways to put that into the show as well.

They said the play becomes an incredible collaborative effort between parents and kids to carry out the vision of the show. Keyes said they emphasize to the kids to make the characters their own. She said they tell the kids it is their responsibility, since the play is original it is the first and possibly only time it will be shown.

“We try to keep them creative,” Rosholt said.

Parents are asked for a minimum of two hours volunteer time, but they said for a lot of parents it becomes their whole summer. Parents help with set, costumes and hair.

Hannah said for the three of them, it becomes a lifestyle and they become a family.

“We plan our summers around it,” Keyes said. “I planned my wedding around it last summer.”

The play is for 3rd through 9th grade. Rehearsal is a total of seven weeks for two to three hours each morning. Rosholt said the goal is to always keep it positive. She said they start the day with breathing and stretching, and end each day with compliments.

“The positivity, it’s contagious,” Jake said.

Hannah Rosholt said it’s good to keep the kids active, but they also are constantly being taught to think critically. She said they are trying to create and understand a new culture. She said their goal is to always teach some sort of life lesson, Jake added sometimes they are educational as well.

They have had time travelling plays in the past, where they learn about history throughout the show. This year is “Space Case” a mystery in outer-space where alien tribes need to learn how to get along and survive together.

“We want to keep them learning through the summer,” Jake said.

They said they also are trying to get the kids out of their comfort zone and socialize with people they normally wouldn’t. Keyes said she sees kids gain enormous amount of confidence as well, just like SYT gave her. She says she loves seeing kids reading the script quietly on day one, then on the day of the performance the child can be heard from the back of the PAC.

The three can remember what SYT gave to them as well.

“It shaped my career, I was going to go into business but I went into music education,” Hannah Rosholt said.

Rosholt said now, her and Jake look forward to writing and collaborating together.

“When I was kid I never thought I would be writing music one day,” Keyes said. “It’s nice to know I am empowering these kids and when I was in it, I was the one that was empowered.”

Allie Kind, a Watertown Mayer student is going into 9th grade. Her first show was four years ago. Her friend Hailey Heid was in it first and talked about how much she loved it, so she wanted to join.

“It’s a good opportunity to do things you wouldn’t normally do,” Heid said.

Kind remembers being terrified her first show, she says now she is really good at talking to people. She said she knows she wants to continue acting in high school, but if she hadn’t done SYT she wouldn’t have been comfortable.

“It becomes such a big part of your life, It’s a relief when the show comes and you think about all the time you put in,” Kind said.

Heid and Kind are two of five girls on the “creative consulting team”. Piper Thompson, Grace Stauffer and Hailey Heid make up the rest of the team. Rosholt said this is the first year they have had students get involved earlier. According to her, it made all the difference.

“The script was in much better shape because of their ideas,” she said.

They said at the end of each show they already have ideas for next year. Though the really dive into come December and January. Keyes and the Rosholts are all teachers so they said they take the rest of the summer to prepare for their school year.

They all agreed that their goals are to keep trying to get students more involved, otherwise they probably wouldn’t change anything.

“I’ll be here forever,” Keyes said.

This years dates for the show are July 28 through July 30. Friday, July 28 and Saturday July 29, shows are at 7 p.m. and Sunday July 30 is at 2 p.m. The program will last about an hour.