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YTN feeling the economic pinch

Mercer Island’s Youth Theatre Northwest is celebrating its 25th year. At left, murals outside the theater depict YTN productions. - Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island’s Youth Theatre Northwest is celebrating its 25th year. At left, murals outside the theater depict YTN productions.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter

Youth Theatre Northwest is reaching out for funds to keep the 25-year-old teaching and performing space a going concern.

The theater is appealing directly to the public with a “call to action” for emergency funding starting tomorrow, Feb. 19. The goal is to raise $100,000, beginning with a “Save YTN” open meeting for all to understand the situation, said Doreen Kindred, Board Co-Chair.

“We will rally as a community and steer a new course to ensure this mainstay on the Island is here for years to come, providing quality programs for more than 1,200 children and shows for thousands of patrons,” she said. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 at YTN.

Like many arts organizations, YTN is being hit hard by the economic recession, with a 50 percent decrease in individual giving, a decline in class enrollment and a reduction in foundation funding. Emergency funds are needed to balance the fiscal budget, maintain payroll and continue programs.

“We are asking the community to remember and sustain the values YTN brings to Mercer Island and the entire region. We are the only organization that produces theater by and for children while providing year-round drama education. We lift children up, preparing them for future success and inspiring them to find the best within themselves. Please help us through this rough time,” said Manuel Cawaling, Executive Director.

YTN has weathered the reduced revenue thus far through cost-cutting measures including unpaid staff furloughs, teachers doubling up on duties and other cost reductions, Cawaling explained. However, he said that without any “extras” to cut, the productions are in jeopardy without broad and immediate community support.

Rhiannon Batson, 17, said, “I’ve been involved at YTN since I was 5 years old. Since then, I’ve performed in over 26 mainstage plays. YTN has been a special home for me, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it. YTN challenges me to be comfortable in my own skin and be my own person. Through all the characters I’ve played, I’ve also developed the ability to understand other people and different points of view.”

Youth between the ages of 3 to 18 participate in year-round drama classes that build self-esteem through self-expression at the nonprofit. Ten stage productions teach teamwork and responsibility. YTN continues to offer its full range of classes and shows during these tough economic times. The 2009 school season continues to draw crowds with upcoming fan favorites, “Fiddler on the Roof” (March 6-22), “The Wizard of Oz” (April 24-May 9), “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” (May 14-24) and “Into the Woods” (May 29-June 13). Registration is currently being taken for the spring and summer drama classes.

Patrons are invited to purchase a ‘FlexPass’ of 12 tickets for a reduced price. For more information, go to www.youththeatre.org.

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