Rising Youth Theatre of Phoenix specializes in creating original theater works that reflect the lives of local youth who get the opportunity to work with playwrights and local theater artists. It’s a creative way to engage children and teens in crafting and communicating their own stories.
Recently, the theater company created a play called “Fandom,” which explores contemporary fan culture fueled by movies, television, books and social media. Youth collaborated with playwright Carrie Behrens and worked with director Sarah Sullivan, who co-founded Rising Youth Theatre with fellow ASU alumna Xanthia Walker.
Fandom represents all fans, including fans of particular books, films, TV shows and more.
The play casts fandom in a positive light, noting its role in helping people of all ages connect with others who share similar interests. It also helps them to become experts in specialized subject matter and embrace their individuality despite naysayers who may not accept them for who they are.
More than a dozen Valley youth worked with Rising Youth Theatre on this play’s development. Before each performance, audience members watch a short film showing the group’s creative process. They can also stay for a post-show dialogue with Rising Youth Theatre professionals, guest artists and participating youth. Following Sunday’s show, Walker invited people to talk about ways participating in fandom influences the lives of young people.
One person praised the play’s power for helping youth feel less alone; another said it helps youth “learn to disagree about things without hating each other.” Phoenix mother Ushunda Schulz, who attended with her two daughters, Gabby and Sydney, admitted she has “struggled with this fandom thing as a parent.”
Gabby, 14, loves the Scarlet Witch from “The Avengers.” Sydney, 12, is a big fan of “Beetlejuice” filmmaker Tim Burton. Before seeing “Fandom,” their mom had a change of heart, which she shared during the post-show dialogue: “I started to realize my kids are just being who they are. I have to let them express themselves.”
Parents who are not well versed in fandom will gain insights into related lingo and activities. For many, it might prompt memories of their own fanatical interests as youth—whether in Donny Osmond, “Star Wars” or My Little Pony.
There’s a place at the back of the theater where audience members of all ages can vote for their fan favorites, from “Harry Potter” to “Doctor Who.” If someone like Springsteen or Shakespeare is more your style, you can add that to the mix.
Sullivan says “Fandom” runs about 70 minutes and is best for ages 8 and up. There’s limited onstage seating for people who attend in costume; they can also enjoy free admission. Those who come without costumes but who want to get in the fandom spirit can borrow items off of a wardrobe rack in the lobby. There’s even a prop table people can use at a photo station that has a fandom theme.
What you need to know
- Hours: 7pm Thur-Sat, 2pm Sat & Sun through June 21
- Admission: $10 (free if you attend in costume)
- Location: Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N 3rd St
- Contact: 602-254-3100 or risingyouththeatre.org