In an age when youth theaters can charge big money for a double-cast production of “Annie,” it’s refreshing to learn of a program that won’t cost theater-loving high-school kids a penny to participate.
Director Betsy Hooper is launching Free Theatre Westchester with auditions tomorrow night at the Mamaroneck Avenue School in White Plains. The program is sponsored by the White Plains Youth Bureau. Hooper and her staff are donating their time.
Hooper has taught in schools across the Lower Hudson Valley, including Hastings, Greenburgh, Irvington and Pelham. She has directed “Guys & Dolls,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Company,” “Urinetown,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Noises Off,” “Black Comedy” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to name several. At the Purchase College Summer Youth Program, she founded and directed the Playwriting and Film programs. These days, she works at the Windward School in White Plains.
“Free Theatre has been a long-time goal of mine because I have seen the transformative effect of theatre on a young person,” Hooper says. “The collaboration and sense of belonging, the joy of creative thinking, the chance to gain confidence that theatre offers should be available to any kid who’s willing to commit. (Our tag line is: The only cost is your commitment). At a time when summer jobs are scarce, Free Theatre offers kids an opportunity to have a productive, challenging summer.”
Hooper held a preliminary meeting and attracted more than a dozen kids to get in on the ground floor of this program. Tomorrow, June 30, at 7 p.m., she’ll hold general auditions for actors and actresses entering ninth through twelfth grades. Rehearsals will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., so kids who work days can still take part.
Hooper and her team will look at who shows up and then decide which show best suits the new company. She says that her past shows might provide a hint as to the caliber of work Free Theatre kids should expect to perform.
“I’m into musicals, comedies and musical comedies,” she says.
The five-week program runs from July 6 to Aug. 6, with a performance at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6. If you have questions, contact Hooper at email@example.com.