New technology at Greasepaint Youtheatre expected to elevate performance art

A view of the Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “School of Rock” at 7020 E 2nd St. (Photo courtesy of Durant Photography)

At Greasepaint Youtheatre dreams are born, confidence is built and a sense of imagination is set free for those who choose to take the leap on center stage.

Originally formed as the Scottsdale Community Players in 1954 — the first community theatre established in the city of Scottsdale — then an effort to create Stagebrush Theatre in 1968 finally matured into Greasepaint Youtheatre in 1984 with the youth-centered focus since 2006 now the paramount pursuit of the of the local playhouse.

At Greasepaint Youtheatre young thespians are offered what oftentime develops into a life-long love of artistic impression. (Submitted photo)

Greasepaint Youththeatre is in its 34th year of existence established in Old Town Scottsdale showcasing six full-length, mainstage shows as well as workshops and camps focused on teaching acting, singing, dancing and improvisation skills.

“Scottsdale Community Players was granted its 501(c)3 status in 1952 when it performed in a tiny building on the land where the current City Hall sits today,” said Greasepaint Managing Artistic Director Maureen Dias Watson.

“In 1964, the city leased the land on the corner of 2nd Street and Goldwater for 50 years and Scottsdale Community Players, with private money raised from the local community, built the Stagebrush Theatre. The two companies worked together, alternating adult theatre with a youth show for the next 23 years or so! In 2007, the companies merged into one.”

Ms. Dias Watson says the mission of Greasepaint is pursued every day and through every performance.

“Serving Scottsdale and surrounding communities, Greasepaint’s programming is designed to develop the life skills and aesthetic knowledge that youth will carry with them as both artists and audiences of tomorrow,” she said of the overarching pursuit.

“We provide unique and compelling theatre experiences that educate and challenge young people to stretch the boundaries of imagination and awareness and achieve a positive sense of self.”

Annually, Ms. Dias Watson points out, nearly about 9,000 people come to see the professional youth theatre in action.

“We produce a minimum of six shows per year, plus 11 weeks of camps and workshops,” she said. “We focus on producing shows for younger children all the way through college. We have alum programs now, focused on hiring former GP kids and producing works that bring them home in summer and over the holidays to reunite with their GP family and share what they are learning and have learned at university or in the professional world.”

But providing performances at Greasepaint comes with audio visual considerations oftentimes translating into hard costs. For Greasepaint, that hard costs is in the form of the ETC ION Console, which is a light board allowing for the springs of imagination to be illuminated.

“This year, we were fortunate to be a recipient of a grant from the Scottsdale Charros to put toward the updating of our equipment in the theatre to allow us to become more energy efficient and modernize our board so that we can teach high school Students who are a part of our community and have interest in the technical side of theatre,” Ms. Dias Watson said.

“Our current light board — believe it or not — still saves programs on floppy disks! Whenever we show that to kids, they have never seen a floppy disk! We have managed to keep the board running through sheer will and some talented lighting directors.

The Scottsdale Charros, through The Charro Foundation, provided Greasepaint a $10,000 grant to purchase the light board, which Ms. Watson says is vital for students to incorporate what they are learning on the device at school while participating at Greasepaint.

For 56 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

“In addition, the grant has allowed us to replace backstage and onstage work lights with LED fixtures in order to save on energy costs and keep actors rehearsing much more comfortable than they were when working for weeks with the general stage pars,” Ms. Dias Watson said of the good grant dollars will do for the theatre.

An intimate view of the most recent production of “School of Rock” at Greasepaint Youtheatre. (Photo courtesy of Durant Photography)

In support of the arts

Scottsdale Charro Jason Klonoski says his daughter performed at Greasepaint, which is where he says he first encountered the professional display of youth theatre.

“My daughter was in a play there — the quality of the production blew me away. “I met Ms. Dias Watson; heard the story of the theater and was sold on it and their mission.”

Jason Klonoski

Mr. Klonoski is the Charro sponsor for the Greasepaint grant application.

“It is one of many options available to kids,” he said.

“Like other activities it is collaborative, it takes dedication and skill, but it is also historically informative, exposes kids to music, but really helps develop life skills that extend beyond the theater.”

And, to keep those skills developing, Mr. Klonoski says grant dollars were needed.

“Their technology is dated and breaking down,” he said. “It is a piece of hardware that will last and affect the quality of the shows and their ability to integrate new technology for years to come.”

For Mr. Klonoski, the arts and the exposure to those efforts is critical for taking a holistic approach to raising a child.

“The arts and specifically, arts for youth, seem to be the first programs cut as they are deemed non-critical to academic achievement,” he said. “They are, however, the biggest piece of what makes us human. We can’t lose touch with that side of ourselves. Supporting the arts, and specifically this theater, which was designed by Charro Joe Wong, preserves our humanity, our community and our history.”

Ms. Dias Watson says, she too believes in the power of the arts.

“I believe theatre inspires and teaches young people — no matter what they do in the future — to be more empathetic human beings, to think on their feet, to work collaboratively, to problem solve,” she said. “There is no other place that I would have had my own two children grow up.”

Go to greasepaint.org.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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