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Valley Youth Theatre debuts new play, "Dear 2020!" after two-year hiatus

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 19:35:43-05

PHOENIX — After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the actors of Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) will debut the world premiere of "Dear 2020!", a play composed of monologues written by the cast and crew that describe what it was like for kids to grow up during a worldwide pandemic.

"To have a subject matter that is something that every single one of us has experienced is a rarity," Bobb Cooper, the Producing Artistic Director of Valley Youth Theatre, said.

When classrooms closed and students moved into a world made up of Zoom screens, Cooper and the VYT team also moved to the digital realm.

"We didn't have anything to rehearse at that point in time. But it was just a place to gather," Cooper said.

As students discussed their losses — the loss of prom, the loss of in-person learning, the loss of in-person graduation — Cooper said he could tell "we were starting to go down a bad hole."

"Because of Valley Youth Theatre and the positivity, what we're about, we were like, 'Okay, let's find the silver linings. Let's start looking at what good is happening right now,'" Cooper said.

With the help of Madolyn Whitmer, the Education and Outreach Director at VYT, students began to "devise their thoughts and feelings into monologues," Cooper said. "We found that it was very therapeutic. It was very profound. And we all could relate to each other's stories because we were experiencing those things."

In November 2021, through a partnership with the Herberger Theatre, the actors of VYT put on a live production of "All Together Now," where they performed Broadway musical classics for an outdoor audience. During that production, the cast also presented three monologues from what would eventually become "Dear 2020!".

"We got nice comments about the concert itself," Cooper said. "But it was the comments about those monologues that really resonated with people."

From there, the show began to take shape. Whitmer worked with Kylan Chiat, the Student Director of "Dear 2020!" to bring each actor's monologue to life. And the finished product, according to Chait, is "something pretty magical."

"[Dear 2020!] touches on a lot of topics that not many do touch on," Chiat said. "It breaks away from the norm of shows here [at Valley Youth Theatre]."

When the curtains open and "Dear 2020!" makes its debut, Whitmer said she hopes the audience, while reflecting upon their own COVID experience, "takes a minute to look at the kiddos around them and see, like, they have a lot to say."

"I don't think there has been much of an opportunity for kiddos to get what's on their hearts out there and to really express how they were feeling during this time," Whitmer said. "So, I hope that they'll go home and have a conversation and ask each other 'Hey, how are you feeling?'"

"Dear 2020!" runs from February 25 to March 13.

To attend in-person, patrons are required to present proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the show. Mandatory temperature checks will be at the door, and all audience members will be required to wear a mask.

For tickets and more information about "Dear 2020!", click here.