Valley Youth Theatre Premieres Musical Addressing Discrimination

The Arizona premiere of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical is presented by Valley Youth Theatre (VYT), October 12-28, at 525 North First Street, in Downtown Phoenix. This is the second production in the theatre's thirtieth season and the first time this new musical has been performed by a youth cast. Written by Douglas Lyons, Melvin Tunstall III and Greg Borowsky, it was inspired by the true events of civil rights pioneers Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine and is produced by special arrangement with Broadway Licensing, (www.broadwaylicensing.com).

Polkadots provides a colorful history lesson for children, teaching them that our differences make us awesome, not outcasts. Its story follows a girl who appears remarkably different than everyone else in her new hometown and is faced with the task of gaining acceptance from her peers. From daily bullying, to segregated drinking fountains, her quest seems hopeless until she meets a friend who is able to see the person she is inside.

According to Producing Artistic Director, Bobb Cooper, "It's a message that needs to be conveyed, especially today. The way these characters respond to and resolve their differences epitomizes everything we strive for at VYT - to be a supportive and safe place that teaches children meaningful life skills, builds their self-esteem and fosters their creativity. We just happen to use theatre as the vehicle to accomplish those things." He adds, "By opening our doors to ALL children, we allow them to freely express themselves and to be vulnerable with other young people who share their love of performing."

Valley Youth Theatre is one of the few theatres in the country that offers completely fee-free opportunities for all young actors, singers and dancers. For all VYT productions, there are no performer fees, charges for costumes or ticket sales quotas to meet, so there are no social or economic barriers for them cross. There are also no experience or education barriers when it comes to casting VYT's six shows each year, five musicals and one play. Many of the youth listed in their playbills have never taken an acting, singing or dancing lesson and many of them are performing on stage for the first time. VYT maintains a reputation for selecting talent based on who is best suited for each character, not for who best fits general perceptions of that role.

Said Cooper, "When it comes to casting, we don't see differences as hindrances and we don't follow typecasting norms. I know that, for the 22 years I've been here, we have given equal treatment and consideration to all performers regardless of where they come from, where they live, who their parents are or what they believe. All we want is for children to be the best they can be."

Douglas Lyons, originator and co-lyricist of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical agrees saying, "Kids don't see color. They see friendship and fun." His goals for this musical are to bring diversity to the stage, to make sure performers of any ethnicity can play any role, to make kids feel empowered and cool and to let them know it's OK to ask questions. Lyons will attend opening night of the performance and will teach a master class, at VYT, the following day.

Because the script calls for a cast of only four performers, Cooper has elected to allow two casts to rotate as leads and ensemble for alternating performances. Kate Daley and MarySue Dickens, who both live in Phoenix, will play the role of Lily. Alex Silver and Dominic Cardenas, also of Phoenix, will portray Sky. Kiara Adams of Cave Creek and Cecilia Bradley of Tempe will play Penelope and the role of Teacher, Ms. Square, will be played by Mia Johnson of Litchfield Park and Ryley Grace Youngs of Sun City. Grace Bush will play Mama Square for all performances.

Songs from Polkadots include "Sticks and Stones," "One Pal, "Cool Kid" and "New Day." The world premiere recording of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical is available on Sony Records and through Amazon or iTunes. Lyrics include, "You're a cool kid when you are a square or fair with freckles and hair. Bald or blind you're truly divine. Short or tall but having a ball. You're a cool kid. A cool Kid although you are thin, a twin or feminine. You dance or write or fly a kite. But if you don't - go! Start tonight. You're a Cool Kid, a Cool Kid even if you're gay, straight, a bit overweight...know somebody cares. We are the next generation of thought so they better beware."

Lyons will attend a special reception and opening night performance of the production on October 12th and Tunstall will attend the show on October 28th.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.vyt.com.

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