Kids at center stage

Village Theatre knew five years ago that its ever-growing Kidstage program needed a place of its own, where students could learn the rigors of stage production and performance along with the life skills of confidence, discipline and teamwork.

Also, Kidstage needed sprung floors for dance and

needed to be close to adult Village Theatre professionals who would mentor students.

Village Theatre began looking for a spot to expand. At the same time, city of Everett officials invited Village Theatre to write a proposal for use of the former Key Bank building at Wetmore and California avenues so the city could create a performing arts plaza.

“So when the city was ready to execute the vision they’ve had on this plaza area and it came up at the same time we were looking, it just felt like a goose-bump moment,” said Kati Nickerson, Village Theatre’s director of youth education.

Since those goose bumps were felt, renovation has pretty much come to completion at the old bank building, where classes have officially begun at Village Theatre’s new Everett Youth Education Center.

Village Theatre’s Kidstage serves more than 1,100 students a year, ages 4 to 20. Last fall, Kidstage started offering classes through its new Village Institute for students who wanted to learn at a more advanced, rigorous level.

These Kidstage programs had previously been crammed into the Everett Performing Arts Center, Village Theatre’s mainstage facility on the opposite side of the block from the new youth education center.

Now the education center and theater give Kidstage a chance to serve an additional 450 students a year, as well as provide additional theater and event space for the community, Nickerson said.

The new building houses a 30-foot by 30-foot theater, along with classrooms and office space. The education center will have a cafe run by the Under the Red Umbrella restaurant to serve theater patrons and the general public.

Other highlights of the new Kidstage building include:

•170 raked telescoping formal theater seats.

Three studio spaces with sprung floors and mirrors for music, dance, theater rehearsals and classes.

A small orchestra vestibule.

An ADA-accessible dressing room.

“It’s their home, and last week it was really thrilling to see their faces light up,” Nickerson said.

In the future, Village Theatre stage programs, along with small scale festivals, arts fairs and concerts, are planned for the city of Everett’s plaza area, which is sandwiched between the performing arts and education centers.

Work on the outdoor plaza is in the early stages and is expected to be finished next year. Once complete, the plaza will have tiered seating and a fountain designed by Whidbey Island artist Linda Beaumont.

“We look forward as to how we can shake it up with the community,” Nickerson said.

Both the new Kidstage theater and plaza projects, however, shook up some city residents and some on the Everett City Council, who balked at the cost.

The city is spending approximately $2.7 million on the three-quarter-acre plaza project. That cost doesn’t include the price of land. Also, the city spent $1.3 million to fix up the former Key Bank building so it could be leased by Village Theatre.

Councilman Ron Gipson voted no on both projects, saying the city is in a financial crunch.

Nickerson said the whole synergy with the open plaza and its proximity to the new Kidstage theater and EPAC are going to be “electric and beautiful.”

“The plaza is built for performances. The sightlines are fantastic and wired for sound,” Nickerson said. “They didn’t miss anything with this opportunity.”

In addition, the new Kidstage theater will make it possible for Village Theatre to grow partnerships in the community.

Nickerson pointed out that Village has already begun a partnership with Cocoon House, where six of the 16 children living at the shelter for at-risk youth have signed up for Kidstage classes.

“It’s a real beginning to expanding our connection with the underserved, special needs and at risk populations,” Nickerson said. “This building gives us this confidence and strength. Now our arms are open wide.”

Kidstage student Lydia Weir, 12, has been part of Village Theatre since she was 3. She’s enrolled in the Village Institute program and is taking dance-intensive, singing-intensive and acting-intensive classes this fall.

Lydia called the new youth education center a “blessing.” Working with Village Theatre professionals is a major plus.

“We’re really lucky to have all the amazing special performers that we do,” Lydia said. “They have lots of experience and teach us a lot.

“Kidstage has really helped everybody in the program learn that it’s OK to be yourself,” Lydia continued. “Kidstage is a big community where we are all learning things together and also supporting each other.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

See the stage

A community open house is planned from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 1 at the new Village Theatre Everett Youth Education Center at 2730 Wetmore Ave., Everett.

The open house will feature tours, refreshments, activities and demonstrations. Along with representatives from Village Theatre’s Kidstage and Pied Piper programs, partners from The Dance School, Imagine Children’s Museum and Cocoon House will participate.

Take a class

Village Theatre’s youth education programs are enrolling for fall classes, which officially begin Oct. 5 in the new Village Theatre Everett Youth Education Center, 2730 Wetmore Ave.

The class lineup includes exploratory and musical theater for students pre-kindergarten to 12, as well as musical theater choices themed around “The Sound of Music” or “Hairspray.” There also are courses in dance essentials, stage combat and theater tap.

A complete listing of fall classes is available at the Village Theatre website at www.villagetheatre.org.

Fall class costs range from $160 to $200. Registration forms are available online at www.villagekidstage.org or by calling Village Theatre’s Youth Education office at 425-257-6371.

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