My son has his last performances at West End Studio Theatre this summer—his last summer before college. He has had theater classes with Terri Steinmann and various of her staff members since the Wizard of Oz class in July 2004, and he has been performing on the WEST stage since they opened in 2007. Between Pisces Moon (where Terri taught before founding WEST) and West Performing Arts, he has done at least 42 classes with them (I’m not sure how to count the Dinosaur Prom Improv troupe, which he performed with for two years—I counted that as only one class, though it probably should count as more, as there were weekly practice sessions for the two years). Adding up all the course tuition over the 10 years he’s worked with them, I think we’ve paid around $20,000, averaging $2k a year—well worth it for the pleasure and the learning he has gotten from it.
This past weekend he performed as Otho (the interior designer) in Beetlejuice. After seeing the movie, I did not know how they would pull it off as a stage play, but they did quite a good job of it—particularly since they did not have the complete script until a few days before they performed (a long-standing WEST tradition of writing the script after rehearsals have started). There were two casts (the morning class and the afternoon class), but I only saw the afternoon cast’s production—I understand that the interpretations of essentially the same script and set were quite different for the two casts (costumes had to be different, because the actors were very different sizes).
He has one more class with them this summer—the summer teen conservatory with Santa Cruz Shakespeare, which I believe still has room for another student or two (the conservatory is limited to about 12 students). He’s done their Shakespeare teen conservatory for the past four years—it is quite different each time. The conservatory is probably West Performing Art’s most advanced theater class.
After this summer, not only will he be finished with West Performing Arts, but the West End Studio Theatre, where about half his performances have been, will be closed. We joke that they can’t go on without him, but the truth is that they are losing their lease. They’ve been renting on a year-to-year contract for eight years, and the landlord has found a tenant (a beer brewer) willing to lease the space on a longer term lease. The parting is amicable, but everyone will miss the W.E.S.T. space, which has been much more flexible and functional than any of the other spaces children’s theater has used around the city.
West Performing Arts will continue classes at the Broadway Playhouse and at schools, but they’ll need more space for classes than Broadway Playhouse can provide, especially for their popular summer classes, so they are looking for a new home. If anyone knows of spaces that might meet their needs (ideally, two large adjacent spaces that can be used for classes, one of which can be a flexible performance space, totaling about 10,000 sq ft, with storage, office space, and nearby parking and not needing a lot of renovation). They don’t have a lot of money (they’ve been keeping the classes affordable), so the typical $15–20/sq.ft./year leases locally are probably beyond their means. If anyone has any leads for them, their contact information is on their web site.