The experiences one has during a public performance can help sprout an inner power many might not know they possess.
At Scottsdale-based Greasepaint Youtheatre that is the name of the game, according to Executive and Artistic Director Maureen Watson.
“Our values and mission have not changed very much over the 36 years Greasepaint has been in operation,” she said of performances at the Stagebrush Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd St.
“We always want to inspire kids --- to grow, both in their talent for and appreciation of the arts, but also in their overall wellbeing. We have created a special place, almost magical --- a safe and fun community where kids find themselves --- and their ‘tribe’ and know that they belong.”
Greasepaint Youtheatre is in its 36th year of existence established in Old Town Scottsdale showcasing six full-length, main-stage shows as well as workshops and camps focused on teaching acting, singing, dancing and improvisation skills.
Ms. Watson contends Greasepaint is a place for all.
“For many kids, if they are not athletes or strong in academics --- in their schools, there is often not a place for them,” she explained. “Many of the ‘Greasepaint Kids’ are one or all of those other things.”
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 in 1984.
The youth-centered focus began in 2006, now being the paramount pursuit of the of the local playhouse.
From Ms. Watson’s perspective, there is no better time then now to be focused on the emotional state of the growing youth of any community --- and Scottsdale is no exception.
“With the lack of arts funding in schools, community theatres and organizations like ours do more than just fill the gap --- they become a second home,” Ms. Watson points out.
“We have kids now who are looking up to alumni performing on Broadway, in national tours, on television and in major-motion pictures. It’s so exciting to watch! We also have alumni who are doctors, lawyers, teachers and even parents of current ‘Greasepaint Kids!’ It’s wonderful to watch all of them grow up and live amazing lives, knowing that Greasepaint was a small part of molding who they are and who they will become.”
The molding of impressionable young minds begins on day No. 1 at Greasepaint, Ms. Watson confirms.
“All of us working here --- we employ two, full-time staff and more than 60 professional Valley artists each year, musicians, designers, directors etc. --- know that what we do matters,” she said.
“Some kids will never work in the arts after high school, but they still learn a multitude of skills that are essential for success. Empathy, understanding diverse points of view, public speaking, collaboration, communication and team skills are just a few of the things that any child will learn when they become a part of a cast.”
Success, Ms. Watson says, is a combination of skill-set, effort and the belief in one’s self.
“No one succeeds without those abilities and theatre is unique in its ability to teach them,” she said. “Those that do choose a life and career in the arts often credit their love for the craft and the foundation of their talent being built here.”
For nearly 60 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.
The Scottsdale Charros, through The Charro Foundation, provided Greasepaint a $10,000 grant to purchase state-of-the-art production sound equipment.
“I know this first-hand from my own children,” said Scottsdale Charro Jason Klonoski who is the sponsor of the grant application.
“Whether sport, or academics, or the arts, being good at any of them takes commitment. Specific to the arts it focuses on the human condition. The triumphs and tragedies most of us endure. The arts make you reflect. Expose young people to issues. And, most importantly share those lessons and emotions with an audience.”
Ms. Watson says the updating of and replacing existing production equipment has been going on for quite some time at Greasepaint.
“The Charro Foundation fulfilled a grant request this year to upgrade our sound equipment, which includes new mics, speakers and monitors that will enhance the quality of our productions for many years to come!” Ms. Watson said of where grant dollars will go.
In addition, Ms. Watson contends more is in store at Greasepaint.
“In addition to the upgrades funded by the Charros, the next two years will see huge improvements and renovations to our home, the Stagebrush Theatre, including new seats, soft goods, stage floor and an entirely new lobby and signage,” she said. “The best is yet to come!”
Mr. Klonoski agrees the efforts at Greasepaint make a difference in the lives of those who participate.
“Watching my and other kids perform has given me more joy than most every other experience I have had,” he said of his own experiences. “It makes you laugh, makes you cry, and in my opinion it exemplifies the best of what we are as human beings.”
Mr. Klonoski, a former ace pitcher, did not come from a thespian background.
“I did not grow up around theater. Quite the contrary, I was an athlete,” he said of his own journey playing professional baseball.
“The lessons of teamwork, collaboration and support my kids learned there are invaluable. Also, it is the first and oldest theater in Scottsdale. It employs artists and musicians. Greasepaint is a real community treasure. I didn’t know this, but many of their graduates have gone on to Broadway, TV and movies. There really is an amazing amount of talent that has been raised there.”
The proof is in the pudding, Mr. Klonoski says, and Greasepaint Youtheatre delivers time and time again.
“I recommend that everyone go see a show,” he said. “My daughter was in several shows there, but I would put their version of ‘13’ a show about divorce and moving against any Broadway performance I have seen. I couldn’t believe how good it was.”
Beyond all else performance art is a way for humans to teach other an invaluable perspective: Empathy.
“What makes humans unique is our ability to empathize,” he said.
“The arts are the method that this is conveyed to the masses. Music. Drama. Dance. They all convey our most fundamental emotions in a uniquely human way. It’s what moves us. Sometimes to action, sometimes to stop actions, sometimes to create real change.”
Mr. Klonoski points out a grant program fueled by the Scottsdale Charros is a perfect fit for the philanthropic outfit.
“The Charros couldn’t be happier to support high quality, well-run organizations like greasepaint because of what they do for every kid that walks through their door,” he said.
Go to greasepaint.org.