Often when we go to events, concerts, plays, or musicals we applaud those onstage for great work that they produce. But when we look in the program we notice that there are several people working behind the scenes that we don't see onstage that have an equal contribution.
This year, due to the efforts of many volunteers and staff members along with artistic staff and performers, we've seen many musicals sell out, The Marquette Symphony Orchestra produced "A Child's Requiem" written by Marquette Native Tom LaVoy and the Marquette City Band has expanded it's offerings including the new "Upper Peninsula Community Band Festival" this Saturday August 9th at the Presque Isle Bandshell. This is just a sampling of events that require the expertise of artists, work from volunteers, funding from grants and donors, and administration from staff to make the arts possible in Marquette. Similar to any great community event or business, there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to make these events and productions possible.
This week will open the production of "Narnia", a musical based on the works of C.S. Lewis, running Thursday, through Sunday with shows at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Superior Theatre. Two new youth directors Jill Vermeulen and David Bashaw have learned first hand what goes into putting on a production. The show contains 78 cast members in two rotating cast (Cast One plays the first week and Cast Two the second week), 12 youth crew four artistic staff members, and dozens of volunteers to coordinate for the production. However their young ages did not hinder their organizational and artistic skills.
David recently graduated from Marquette Senior High School and Jill completed her freshman year at Northern Michigan University. Both David and Jill grew up in the youth theatre of Marquette and are focusing on theatre at the university level. Jill stated that "Now that I'm an adult and have out-aged being a performer in LSYT, I am directing Narnia with hopes of being a similar role model to this generation's youth. Being the leader of two large casts of youth has been a challenge, but has been extremely rewarding. I've developed new leadership and communication skills."
David said that it has been challenging being on the other side of the stage but having been involved with the program for several years has made that transition easier. Jill said that her and David made a great team and according to David, "Something that Jill and I really wanted to focus on with this show was developing the kids as actors.
Not really being a dance heavy show, Narnia provided the perfect opportunity for that. We casted who we felt should get each part, whether they were new or not. So, it was a challenge for some new kids to come in with a larger role, as well as experienced kids coming in and getting a part like never before. Needless to say, the kids have done a fantastic job of developing their characters and growing as actors in general, which we're very proud of".
And we're very proud of our youth in Marquette. From Tom LaVoy coming back and composing a gorgeous composition to two youth leading over 80 kids in a production, the arts continue on generation after generation. We are fortunate to have the numerous arts opportunities in the Marquette Area from our talented Arts Departments in our area school to several out of school activities and opportunities.
As David said, "Youth Theatre is important in the community because it gives the kids a chance to showcase their talent in a rich art culture such as Marquette's. Not only do they get to perform for others, but the theatre opens doors to so many things the kids would never expect. After working with one another for weeks on weeks end, everyone grows close and creates a family like bond. This is important because it provides a place where kids can go and feel safe, welcomed, and accepted.
After all, our goal is to empower young people through performance arts, education, and the creation of outstanding theatrical and musical art."
Editor's note: Nikke Nason is the artistic/executive director of the Lake Superior Youth Theatre and business manager of the Lake Superior Theatre. She is also the former director of the Marquette Arts and Culture Center and currently serves as a council member for the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.