VYTal Affair-athon event will feature 132 former cast members from the past 32 years

“I believe VYT has always been at the right place at the right time and that we can always find the silver lining in anything that might come our way, including this pandemic.” —Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director, Valley Youth Theatre

This month, Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) is adjusting to the times and will replace 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 takes place Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10am to 6pm, with a goal of raising $250,000 to ensure the nonprofit theater can continue offering digital engagement for young performers, throughout the current crisis, and reopen with its signature fee-free acting structure and low-cost ticket pricing, once it is safe to do so.

Like other arts organizations, VYT says that it has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, having to cancel its last two shows of the 31st season and first two shows of the 32nd season — so far. They’ve also had to cancel in-person performing arts camps and classes or replace them with significantly smaller online versions. Their 26th annual fundraising gala, VYTal Affair, was also canceled to accommodate social distancing and gathering size limitations, since it typically includes live entertainment, live and silent auctions, cocktails and donated food from Valley restaurants.

In an effort to help the theater raise money and give children the opportunity to perform, owners of a local full-service marketing company, Two:Second Media, owned by VYT parents Chris and Candace Weir, offered to produce a virtual telethon at no charge. The theater recognized it as a way to replace VYTal Affair with something no other local company has done, an eight-hour Jerry-Lewis-style telethon featuring live and recorded performances by VYTKids, from around the world.

“I believe VYT has always been at the right place at the right time and that we can always find the silver lining in anything that might come our way, including this pandemic,” said VYT’s producing artistic director, Bobb Cooper. “Because of the kindness, goodness and wholesomeness of what we do, wonderful opportunities seem to present themselves to us. Because we were able to positively impact the life of their child, these wonderful people offered to give us something we never dreamed of.”

Due to social distancing, most of the telethon will be 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. Committed so far are Yetta Gibson, Gina Salazar Hook, John Hook, Cory McCloskey and Brad Perry.

VYTal Affair is not only the organization’s largest annual fundraiser, it also introduces attendees to local young performers and the high-quality, professional productions that it presents, every season. 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 aren’t 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,” added Cooper. “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.”

“I’ve shed so many tears of joy,” Cooper said about working with former cast members. “Although I try to keep in contact, it’s been great reconnecting with folks from the past few decades. This has brought them many of them back to our theatre — and back to Phoenix.”

“We sent everyone a survey asking them what VYT has meant in their lives and what it helped them learn, enjoy or overcome. Their responses have literally overwhelmed us. To hear the ways our theatre impacted their lives has been extraordinary. It’s the fuel that gets me through every day and why we’re going above and beyond to create something this town has never seen!”

Sponsors committed to date include Sanderson Lincoln and Clairvoyant, at the Choreographer level. At the Cast level are APS, Freeport-McMoRan, Valley Toyota Dealers, The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Sherman and Howard, Lorna Pederson, KPMG, Hope and Jay Ozer, Gammage and Burnham, Edward Jones, Carstens Foundation and BOK Financial.

For information about sponsoring, donating or providing an in-kind gift to the telethon, go to vyt.com.

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