By TIM CLEVELAND
On April 13, several community theaters teamed up to perform in an event called Acting for Autism at the Youngstown Playhouse.
More than 150 people attended the event, which raised nearly $3,000. The money will go toward funding a summer arts camp for children with autism.
“YACTA [Youngstown Area Community Arts Theatre Alliance] had been through a major transition at the end of last year and had decided not to go forward with the annual marquee awards that it had been known for,” YACTA President Joyce Jones said. “We had always wanted to do more for the theater community. We discussed helping theaters and organizations produce fundraisers and other events in addition to helping usher, house manage, work the box office, provide contacts for costumes, props, actors etc.
“I was in a production with Aundrea Cika, who is the director of the Mahoning Valley Autism office. We started talking about Autism and fundraising. One thing led to another and we decided to partner the event. YACTA contacted all of the community theaters in the Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Shenango valleys. We got a great response. Although some theaters could not participate onstage, they were very generous in sending season tickets for our raffle. We raffled off season tickets from area theaters.”
Among the performances were the Spot Light Players opening the show with a selection from “Les Miserables.” Performers from Top Hat Productions presented selections from “Ragtime” and The Earth Trembled.” The Oakland performed songs from “Hair.” The Rust Belt Theater performed two original musical numbers from “Dating Sucks.” The Youngstown Playhouse performed from “Honk” and presented a preview from the upcoming musical “The Wiz” and a scene from “39 Steps.” Liz Rubino Studios present two of her young artists. The Garage Theater presented songs of Frank Sinatra. The show ended with an audience participation dance to “Happy” by Pharrell. The show was hosted by James McClellan.
Jones said the autistic children really enjoyed participating in the show.
“What better way for an autistic kid to express themselves through the arts,” she said. “The event went very well and we are hoping it will become an annual event raising more and more each year. The playhouse has generously already offered their theater for the event next year.
“The Youngstown Area Community Theater Alliance is also looking forward to our first theater scholarship dinner in August. We are planning to award a scholarship to an area high school senior who is planning to pursue the arts in college. We got a lot of positive feed back from the community concerning the Autism fundraiser and we look forward to helping to produce more in the future.”