Valley Youth Theatre has replaced its annual fundraising gala with an eight-hour virtual telethon, The VYTal Affair-athon, to be streamed live on YouTube, Facebook and vyt.com. The event will be Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a goal to raise $250,000 to ensure the nonprofit theater can continue offering digital engagement for young performers throughout the current pandemic crisis and reopen with its signature fee-free acting structure and low-cost ticket pricing once it is safe to do so.
Due to COVID-19, VYT had to cancel its last two shows of the 31st season and first two shows of the 32nd season—so far. The organization has also canceled its in-person performing arts camps and classes or replaced them with smaller online versions. The 26th annual fundraising gala, VYTal Affair, was also canceled to accommodate social distancing and gathering size limitations, since it typically includes lives entertainment, live and silent auctions, cocktails and food from Valley restaurants.
To help the theater raise money and give children the opportunity to perform, owners of a local full-service marketing company Two:Sec. Media, owned by VYT parents Candace and Chris Weir, offered to produce a virtual telethon for VYT at no charge. The result will be an eight-hour Jerry-Lewis-style telethon featuring live and recorded performances by 132 VYTKids from around the world.
Most of the telethon has been pre-recorded. It will also include live Zoom interviews with alumni, original songs written specifically for the event, virtual cast reunions, multi-track numbers and a few surprise guests. Each hour will be virtually hosted by a local Phoenix celebrity. This year’s virtual format has the potential to reach a global audience, creating a first-time opportunity for young performers to receive exposure outside of Phoenix since VYT’s performances are permitted to be recorded or televised.
“For the first time ever, we will be able to showcase the incredible talent Phoenix has to offer to people around the world. We have performers from the age of nine to seasoned professionals who were in our shows in 1989. They include attorneys, police officers, professional cheerleaders and drag queens, Broadway performers, TV stars and even Academy Award winners. I’m really looking forward to the applause we won’t hear, but will be able to read in the comments later,” says Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director.
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PHOTOS COURTESY VALLEY YOUTH THEATRE AND PARTICIPANTS