SEASON 18 - 2011
Pay It Forward
April 28 - May 12, 2011
ABC Channel 7 gave $7,000 to seven people who shared how they would pay that money forward to a local non-profit organization. Honorees were featured on Eyewitness News. Contest rules required both a video and written submission describing the organization. See TST’s submissions below.
How TST would pay the $7,000 donation forward;
how lives and communities would be positively impacted.
For 13 years, Towne Street Theatre has nurtured a Kid’s Musical Theatre Summer Camp serving the greater Crenshaw community for ages 10 to 17. They offer inner city youths a rewarding summer alternative to video games and TV watching. Parents see their kids challenged and grow after the rigorous rehearsals and exhilarating performances. Memorizing scripts improves their school studies. For many participants, researching characters is their first glimpse of a world beyond their backyard. Grateful camp graduates return as volunteer interns.
Instructors are Broadway and Hollywood professionals. Rehearsals are electric as kids tackle difficult dance routines, vocal warm-ups and discover acting choices. Positive reinforcement and the insistence for their best effort fosters a thirst for excellence. Of course, acting, singing and dancing are fun, too! At TST, if you mess up everyone laughs “with” you. Then help you get it right.
It’s harder to shine without air conditioned rooms, or proper ballet bars. TST manages without celebrity endorsements or huge sponsorship.
Community support is very enthusiastic, but each year families from this under-resourced area find it increasingly hard to meet tuitions. The camp provides scholarships, stretching funds when there are none. Known as “the underdogs” – TST is highly regarded by their peers with awards from the NAACP, Women In Theater, Mayor James K. Hahn and others – yet financially they struggle to stay afloat. After rising overhead drove TST from their original downtown loft/theater location, the company now short-term rents all rehearsal and performance space. This has provided revenue for local churches who’ve hosted the camp, and to nearby print shops and eateries.
TST recently forged an alliance with Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood. Stella Adler’s management recognized the camp’s artistic creativity and commitment and negotiated favorable rehearsal and performance space fees. Now, navigating both their Crenshaw area and Hollywood has taught campers that they can excel anywhere they desire. Still – even with sold out 99-seat houses, a dedicated production team and advisory board – camp dollars are stretched thin. The term “non-profit” certainly fits.
To survive, summer workshops have scaled down to single week “intensives,” versus two and three-week sessions in the past.
Towne Street could easily abandon their 18-year legacy and be spared the headache of begging vendors for favors and constantly operating in the red. They could avoid the heartache from seeing lavish kids productions in affluent areas that may be glitzy, yet don’t emphasize certain “backstage principles” which help build strong character.
But who can turn away a child’s desire to grow? Or, dads and moms who help build sets, sew costumes and babysit for free?
Countless young lives and families throughout the greater Crenshaw community have been impacted by Towne Street Theatre’s camp vision.
They can be found online at www.townestreet.org, readying to continue that tradition.