Young Actors Theatre (Tallahassee, Florida)
Most of the time students spend at YAT is used attending classes once a week, usually for 2–3 hours, depending on the class and the age of the students. Classes are divided up by grade and whether the student is in the YAT "Company". Each "Level" of classes has a two letter acronym for a name, followed by a number to indicate the level.
Examples of YAT classes: YP (Young Performers) 1 - 4th grade; YP2 - 5th grade; YP3 - 6th grade; YP4 - 7th grade; PA Prep (Performing Artists Preparation) - 8th grade; PA (Performing Artists) 1 - 9th grade; PA2 - 10th grade; PA3 - 11th grade; PA4 - 12th grade;
The weekly class time is split up into three separate classes; YP & PA Prep classes are required to take one music, one drama, one dance, while PA1-PA4 can choose specific courses they'd like to take, ranging from play writing to a tech class. All Non-Company classes consist of one music, one drama, and one dance.
If a Young Actors Theatre student is in the fourth grade or above, and has taken at least one year of classes at YAT, he or she is eligible to audition for the YAT Company (All the above listed classes are company). Only Company members can audition for the main-stage show, with the exception of the summer show. Middle schoolers (and sometimes High schoolers who are new to YAT) who make it into company must first go through "Apprentice Company" before being eligible for "Core Company" (which is the main Company group)
Other classes and troupes
In addition to regular classes are extra dance classes that are open to YAT students. The main attraction in the extra classes is the Tap program, which is arguably the best youth tap program in the area. There are also higher level audition-only Jazz, Ballet, Hip-Hop and Tap ensembles.
Historically: YAT also has a handful of touring troupes who perform at various local events, most frequently the Downtown Getdown, held every Friday before an FSU football game during the football season. The most known group is Studio Singers, an audition-only group of high school YAT students who sing and dance, and generally perform medelys of many songs. Below that is the middle school touring troupe, Act One, which is where most of the Studio Singers come from. YAT also has a few dance-only troupes, though they don't perform nearly as much as Act One and Studio Singers.
On the main stage
Young Actors Theatre puts on three main-stage shows every year: one in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer. The shows are usually directed by Robert Stuart or Tina Williams, though YAT Alumni are often invited back to direct, appear in, or assist with shows. The three shows (fall, spring, and summer) make up one "season" (i.e.: 2005-2006), with each show usually being of the same type:
- Fall Show: The Fall show is always a large group musical, and is open to all Company members. The cast for the Fall show is almost always huge, consisting of many younger kids (4th-6th grade) who come on maybe once or twice for large group numbers.
- Spring Show: The Spring show is open to all Company members 6th grade and above, and is usually a non-musical drama or, on occasion, a comedy. Every once in a while a musical will be the spring show, though this is rare. The spring shows usually have the smallest cast of the entire season.
- Summer Show: The Summer show is the only YAT show to be open to non YAT students, though they must be in high school (grades 9-12). These shows are the quickest produced since there is no school, usually going from initial script reading to dress rehearsals in about three weeks. They are often considered to be the best shows of the season.
In the past, there were traditionally four shows a year. The "Winter Show" was often a drama that gave the younger kids stage opportunities, many times with leading or assisting roles. The last of these was 1999's "Number the Stars". But to improve the quality of all the other shows and the season in general, the fourth show was cut.
Current season 2014–2015
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella; 13: The Musical; 42nd Street
Notable YAT alumni
Christine Long - Titanic
Erika Macleod - Les Misérables
Andrea Davey - Contact
David Reiser - Good Vibrations
Worth Williams - Hairspray
Jay Jaski - Take Flight
Whether intentionally or not, quite a few traditions have sprung up over the years at YAT. While there are far too many to name in just one list, there are a few notable traditions:
- Dinner after Opening Night: After the opening of every show, the entire cast goes heads out to a late dinner at Ruby Tuesday (usually ending around midnight). Occasionally, the opening night dinner's have been held at TGI Fridays.
- Closing Night Pranks: Though discouraged by the staff, closing night pranks are a prominent occurrence (or problem, depending on how you look at it) on the last performance of a main stage show. There is one unsaid goal to a closing night prank: to change something noticeable enough for the cast and audience members who have seen it before to notice, but not different that the new audience members would be able to spot. Examples include minor changes to make-up, added lines, and modified pantomimes. Closing night pranks are generally only punished if they hurt the show in any way (i.e. changing the lyrics to a song, changing vital lines of dialogue). Some closing night pranks also have a goal of simply victimizing (in a light-hearted way) other actors or the musicians in the "pit". These include dumping bags full of paper atop the musicians in the pit, trying to get people to laugh by doing something humorous off-stage while they are on-stage, and drawing humorous things onto a surface while on stage (though that is GREATLY discouraged).
- Final Warm Ups: Started by musical director Alison Grimes in the Young Actors Production of Grease in 1981, on the closing night of every summer show the final warm up song, sung in divided high school graduation classes, is "We Go Together" from Grease. This is sung as both a farewell to the seniors to whom that show will be their last Young Actors show as a student at the theatre, and as a 'uniting' song for each class.
- Oklahoma: A recently started tradition is the singing of the song "Oklahoma!" in the dressing room after every performance of every show (excluding school matinées). As much as cast members may get fed up with its off-key nature or loud volume, it's an inevitable happening that starts somehow or another whether anyone wants it to or not.
- Signing Backstage: Each actor in each show is very much expected to sign their name on a wall backstage with their part and the show (if the show is a common one, the year also). As a newer tradition the senior class each year receives a brick they are allowed to sign their names on to commemorate their attending Young Actors as a sign for those still to come. There are also pictures, scavenger hunts, and other misc. marks on the walls backstage from two decades of YAT students. This tradition began when the Theatre was built in 1986 and has continued until the present day.
- "Circle:" Before each show, excluding the second school matinée of the day (if there are two, which there rarely are), all of the actors, along with any directors present, gather in a circle, hold hands, and 'pass a squeeze' around. The squeeze begins and ends at the director of the show, with each person's hand getting squeezed by the person to their left, and them proceeding to squeeze the hand of the person on their right. After the squeeze makes it back to the director, everyone raises their hands and says the 'phrase' of the show (usually selected by the seniors) in unison. 'Losing' the squeeze is considered bad luck, and does not bode well for the upcoming performance. If lost, another squeeze is started, and sometimes methods are taken to make sure it isn't lost again (such as lifting your hand as it gets squeezed, to indicate at all times where the squeeze is).