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New Jersey Youth Theatre (NJYT), formerly Westfield Young Artists’ Cooperative Theatre, Inc. (WYACT) is recognized today as one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed youth-theater companies in the State of New Jersey. It is identified with the highest standards of excellence as a major training ground for young talent, producer of professional youth theater and collaborator in bringing diverse theatrical fare to an array of audiences throughout the State.
The classes, workshops, residencies, and free, summer production program for youth have together served more than 2,200 talented youngsters (ages 8-21+), and the productions have engaged well-over 100,000 patrons from diverse communities throughout the State of New Jersey and the tri-state area.
Since its founding in 1991, NJYT’s visionary goals have focused exclusively on the education of young artists. Its PROGRAMMING includes: 1) age-appropriate, proficiency-based, theater-arts classes, workshops and residencies during the year in all the aspects of craft to achieve the highest standards in drama, dance (ballet, tap, jazz), improvisation, musical theatre and vocal performance; and 2) producing, in collaboration with the state’s premier venue, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and other professional New Jersey theaters, professional-level, full-scale productions (musicals and plays) featuring emerging young talent from across the state.
The classes, workshops, residencies, and free, summer production program for youth have together served more than 2,200 talented youngsters (ages 8-21+), and the productions have engaged well-over 100,000 patrons from diverse communities throughout the State of New Jersey and the tri-state area. For many youngsters, the training and performance experience with NJYT opened the door to major theater arts colleges and universities in the U.S., and for some, it launched their professional theatre career.
For many youngsters, the training and performance experience with NJYT opened the door to major theater arts colleges and universities in the U.S., and for some, it launched their professional theatre career.
Highlights & Awards:1992 – Produced first NJYT theatrical production (“A Midsummer Night's Dream”) featuring an all-youth cast. This initiative was a free summer production program for young talent and became the model by which NJYT is critically acclaimed today as representing one of the best training and performance opportunities for young talent in the State of New Jersey. Over 30 major productions (musicals and plays) featuring all-youth casts have been professionally produced by NJYT to-date.
1991 – Opened Performing Arts School in Westfield, serving approximately 150 students, ages 8 to 18. In 2007, the school relocated to studio space in Roselle Park, NJ, and has remained at this site (172 West Westfield Avenue in Roselle Park) to-date.
1998 - Received invitation from the premier theater of New Jersey, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), to present an all-youth production of “Carousel.” The success of this NJYT production led to a 14-year partnership with NJPAC, co-producing major musicals (with all-youth casts) in their Victoria Theater. Many of these productions toured to other professional theaters in the state after their run at NJPAC.
2001 - Produced, in collaboration with the Westfield Symphony Orchestra, a New Year’s Eve benefit concert: “Richard Rodgers, A Centennial Celebration of His Music.” All NJYT proceeds from the event were donated to New Jersey families tragically affected by 9/11.
2002 - Started a Residency Dance Program at two alternative high schools in Scotch Plains and Westfield for at-risk students with special educational needs. The Program ran for seven consecutive years as part of the core curriculum at these schools, until funding for the arts at these schools evaporated at the close of 2009.
2003 - NJYT’s production of “West Side Story.” received the prestigious Music Theater International Award for Excellence. Collaborated once again with the Westfield Symphony Orchestra, co-producing the New Year’s Eve concert: “Puttin on the Ritz: The Music of Irving Berlin, America’s Songwriter.”
2004 - Received a “Citation of Excellence” from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for exhibiting the highest standards of excellence in artistry, operations, governance and public benefit.
2005 - Reprised the concert “Richard Rodgers, A Centennial Celebration of His Music” and donated all proceeds to the Salvation Army’s Katrina Relief Initiative.
2006 - NJYT’s all-youth production of “Ragtime, The Musical” was lauded by Peter Filichia, theatre critic for the NJ Star Ledger and Broadway’s TheatreMania.com, as the “Best Musical in New Jersey,” and NJYT’s Cynthia Meryl “Best Director of a Musical Revival.”
2007 – NJN Public Television (Channel 13) broadcast “Learning Curve, State of the Arts,” documenting the making of NJYT’s all-youth production “Carousel.”
2008 - NJYT’s all-youth production “1776” was hailed (by Peter Filichia, The Star Ledger) as ,”Absolutely Stunning” and the cast “equal to the historic challenge.”. NJYT’s workshop premiere of “Midnight Madness,” at NJPAC moved to the (Alvin) Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City as an invited Partner Event in the New York Musical Theater Festival, and plays three sold-out performances.
2009 – Tony-Award winning conductor Donald Pippin sponsored a performance of NJYT’s “Midnight Madness” at the famed Lambs Club in New York City for industry professionals. NJYT’s all-youth production of “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” was lauded by Peter Filichia, theater critic for The Star-Ledger and Broadway’s TheatreMania.com: these “Jersey teens are bloody magnificent..., this production surpasses the last two Broadway revivals.”
2010 & 2011 - NJYT’s “Kiss Me, Kate,” in 2010, “An absolute smash!” said Peter Filichia, theater critic for The Star-Ledger and Broadway’s TheatreMania.com. Received a “Citation of Excellence” from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in each year, as well as in 2009, for exhibiting the highest standards of excellence in artistry, operations, governance and public benefit.
"Stage director turns creative tension into high drama"
"Interview with Cynthia Meryl and Jack Bender on Midnight Madness"
"New Jersey Network news story on New Jersey Youth Theatre"