Valley Youth Theatre has been home to stars like Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks

Stars such as Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks began their rode to acting stardom at Valley Youth Theatre near the Downtown Phoenix campus

Nestled behind Taylor Place, the residence hall of the Downtown Phoenix campus, is Valley Youth Theatre, where many Hollywood stars got their start, including Oscar-nominated actress Emma Stone

From an old car dealership, to a 202-seat theatre, the Valley Youth Theatre has been around since 1989 and has become a place where young actors can come and practice their talents in plays like Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden and many more.

“My favorite part is seeing kids of all ages just come alive, they get to be somebody different and leave their troubles at the door,” Sandi Carll, director of Education and Patron Services, said. “They can come and explore characterization, having a voice and expressing themselves in many different ways.”

Carll said the theater has a very diverse group of kids.

“It is just a special place that kids have a voice and they are very valued here," Carll said. “We work very hard to create that environment, where they can learn and grow, explore and discover, not only who they are through acting, but to appreciate others for the talents that they bring.”

Carll said that although it can be exhausting at times, she is appreciative of the opportunities she has had working at the theater.

“It is just a really special place and I am extremely grateful that I get to go to work every day in an environment that is all about kids, and it is such a positive force in what we do,” Carll said.

Production Stage Manager Joycelin Jacobs and Technical Director Tom Holmberg both said their favorite part of working for the theater is being able see the kids develop as young actors.

“My favorite is watching the kids go from wanting to run around the stage, not understanding the industry, to having fun being a part of the (acting) industry,” said Holmberg.

The theater is a nonprofit where anyone can come participate, whether it is through acting, designing the costumes or creating the set. They provide both volunteer and internship jobs.

“There are great opportunities for ASU students and it is something fun to do,” said producing artistic director Bobb Cooper. 

Many stars such as Jordin Sparks, Kimiko Glenn, Chelsea Kane and Emma Stone began their road to stardom on the Valley Youth Theatre stage.

Stone did around 16 to 20 shows at the Valley Youth and Cooper directed and produced the vast majority of them. 

Cooper, who has known Stone since she began acting at 11-years-old, said being able to watch an actress like Stone grow as an individual and become a well-respected actress has been a great experience for him.

“The thing that is so incredible about Emily (Emma) is that she is humble, she gives thanks back to Valley Theatre because this is where she got her stardom," Cooper said. “She is very supportive of what we do and she believes in what we do.”

The Valley Youth Theatre will be playing Alice in Wonderland through March 5. Their next play will be The Secret Garden, opening April 7. 


Reach the reporter at editomass@asu.edu or follow @emily_ditomasso on Twitter.

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