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"Side By Side By SOTA"

Tacoma Little Theatre and Tacoma School of the Arts foster a beautiful partnership

Photo courtesy of Tacoma School of the Arts's website

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When Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA) was founded in 2001, it seemed only natural that the school's many different art departments would create partnerships with local businesses of the same category. So why then did it take nearly 10 years for the theater department at SOTA to make a connection with Tacoma's oldest community theater?

Tacoma Little Theatre has been around for nearly 100 years, making it the oldest community theater west of the Mississippi. Thanks to SOTA's need for a bigger performance space and the connections of recent students, in 2011 TLT and SOTA joined forces.

Jonathan Hogue first started building the bridge between the two organizations in fall of 2010 when he approached TLT with the idea of holding SOTA's annual Musical Theater Revue at the facility, due to its capacity and stage size in comparison to SOTA's. The SOTA Theatre seats about 100 people, so TLT's facility, which seats 200-plus, is much more comfortable for both the audience and the performers, even if the show isn't completely sold-out both nights.

I got to talk with Brie Yost, who serves as Production Manager at TLT, about what made her willing to partner with SOTA.

"I knew Jonathan from Lakewood Playhouse, he did a couple of shows there," says Yost. "It's easy to have you guys (SOTA) here. You clean up after yourselves and have your own tech crew. If you weren't here, the space would just be empty."

I also got to chat with Mark Kloepper, the vocal music head at SOTA, about what he thought of the partnership.

"This is amazing," says Kloepper. "It's such a gift for (Brie) to be so generous with the space. We are so lucky and owe her so much."

And who is directing the revue this year, continuing the build on the partnership? Yours truly! Yes, I will be student directing the 2012 SOTA Musical Theater Revue, with help from Heidi Knickerbocker, Julia White, and, of course, Mark Kloepper. As part of a graded assignment in the class, I have decided to make it mandatory for each student to volunteer at least one workday at TLT sometime throughout the semester. It's the most logical and beneficial way for us to give back to TLT.

But why should the collaboration stop with the revue? Last January, Ginny McClure, a 2011 SOTA grad, was an intern at TLT, and also was the assistant director and stage manager for a production as part of her senior project.

"I had a great time at TLT," says McClure. "It was such a cool and rare opportunity for me to assistant direct and stage manage a main stage production as a high school student."

There are many great opportunities for SOTA students to be involved in at TLT, whether it's onstage or off. Tacoma Little Theatre provides a great place to learn, outside of school.

So, people of Tacoma, do your part and go see a Broadway show ... in Tacoma! The 2012 SOTA Musical Theater Revue, titled Side by Side by SOTA, will be May 23-24 at 7:30 p.m. at Tacoma Little Theatre.

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