Embracing arts can recharge the city

Support for local arts organizations should be community’s core value.

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston

Enjoying a local theater event recently I heard someone lament: “My life is boring; the actors are having all the fun.” Most of us will never see our names in lights on a marquee but all of us, regardless of age, have a hidden desire to perform, share our talent and be creative.

Not all of us have the courage to put ourselves in presentation mode and feel the exhilaration of being on stage as an actor, musician, dancer or singer. But there is a yearning in all of us to perform and be seen by our peers as part of the show.

While many of us wonder why we do not have that special voice, musical talent, or theatrical skills to have our name in lights, we do have a job to do. We are responsible for connecting our school-age youth to the opportunity of live performance. This is where imagination expands.

The more we experience the arts, the more we understand how art makes connections grow. Art in the schools has been undervalued for several generations. But art, music, song, theater, dance and writing for creativity is what connects our ideas and emotions to what makes us human.

In Federal Way, we have two venues supporting live performance. The Knutzen Theater has graced our city since 1998 and in 2017 the Performing Arts and Events Center opened. Both are foundational community elements for experiencing live performance and encouraging our youth to be involved in the arts.

In addition to those professional stages, the city is fortunate to have the Rosebud Children’s Theater Conservatory whose mission is to facilitate personal growth through the creativity of theater arts. They provide theater camps in the summer, year-round classes as well as productions presented at the Federal Way United Methodist Church.

The PAEC serves as the host for The ARTS 4 Youth program sponsored by the Federal Way Performing Arts Foundation. This program is designed to support a carefully planned school-day excursion that brings students, teachers and parent chaperones to the PAEC for a performance presented by traveling shows that have educational outreach as a contract option.

In the PAEC’s first two seasons, over 6,000 students interacted with 12 different performances staged to support core curriculum subjects. The performances are an outside the classroom education opportunity.

For many, it is their first exposure to live performance. The PAEC being a high-caliber performance hall enhances the experience. Study guides and support materials designed for engagement are provided prior to the performance and discussions continue when they return to their classroom.

The Centerstage Theater company that performs at the Knutzen Theater is a multi-age opportunity to get involved in performance as an actor or production support. If you are an aspiring actor, Centerstage is always appreciative of new talent trying out for productions as well as those willing to work on set building and other aspects of making a show come to life.

Centerstage, as a theatrical leader locally and regionally, has hosted a number of first run productions and numerous plays chosen to entertain and showcase local talent at the Knutzen Theater. While it is a professional theater company, it recognizes that it has a responsibility for being a community resource and support system for young actors.

In May of this year, during Centerstage’s run of “Bye-Bye Birdie,” the production utilized the services of a number of young actors. Many of these actors were students from the Federal Way School District who were participants in Centerstage’s Page to Stage program.

The skills gained from participating in the arts from an early age can be life-changing. Everything taught in a STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is supported and enhanced when combined with the arts. The arts require many of the skills taught in STEM and add the skills of communication, creativity, and the challenge of multi-discipline learning through direct application.

Shaping someone’s future and having a front row seat as a participant, educator, chaperone, parent, neighbor, or city leader is why our support of the PAEC, Centerstage and the arts in general, needs to be seen as a core value for our community.

The PAEC was the host venue for Federal Way Performing Arts Foundation’s third annual ARTS 4 Youth Gala fund-raiser dinner and auction followed by a performance from Los Lobos on Oct. 5. Centerstage hosted their fundraiser this past August but get on their mailing list and become a supporter of live theater as well as their Page to Stage program.

The efforts of the organizations mentioned are important because they are helping today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders. The goal is to inspire the minds of our youth as they experience the full range of life’s offerings with a creative and curious eye.

Our personal lifetime adventure expands with exposure and access to the arts. By supercharging the creative mind of a child, their world becomes an open book filled with ideas and possibilities. Art and creativity impact all of us, especially our children, and when embraced as a core community value it can be the energy that changes lives and recharges this city.

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com.

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