Today we’d like to introduce you to Bobb Cooper.
Bobb, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After performing in school productions, in my hometown of Detroit, I began my professional career at 17 and went on to perform as an actor, singer and dancer, in New York. I was then in national tours and spent thirteen years in Hollywood as a professional actor, producer, writer and entertainer. Most notably, my wife, Karol, and I created the characters of Bobbo and Kookie The Clowns and performed for hundreds of parties, including children’s birthday parties, many of which were for the children of celebrities including: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martin Sheen, Valerie Harper, Howie Mandel, Jim Carey and several others.
In March of 1996, I was hired as the producing artistic director for Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) and was able to bring a cast of 40 talented young people to Center Stage at the Herberger Theatre Center within the first year and a half and within two years, the nine years old company moved from the basement of Tower Plaza Mall to a brand new renovated 202-seat theatre in a once blighted section of downtown Phoenix.
Our theatre company is dedicated to providing young people every opportunity possible to experience the most professional theatrical experiences. We have created a safe environment whereby young performers have blossomed and flourished and reached amazing heights as performers.
With the opening of Peter Pan, this coming June, we will celebrate the 200th production in VYT’s history, the 100th production I’ve been honored to direct and the 45th production we’ve presented on Center Stage at The Herberger Theater Center.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges – which we’re beginning to overcome – is convincing patrons, donors, business partners and the media that, just because our performers are all under twenty years of age, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get a completely professional performance and high-quality production. The time, talent and dedication these young people put into every production is equal to that of any adult…if not greater. Just because these are “youth theatre” productions, no one should ever expect a VYT show to be less than what they would see on a professional stage, anywhere in the world.
What’s most rewarding is the fact that this is changing, and we are gaining the respect and admiration of the community while demonstrating the impact and importance of children in the arts and in the community.
Please tell us about Valley Youth Theatre.
I am a producer, director, designer, songwriter, composer, actor and mentor. Since 1996, our team has transformed Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) into a nationally and internationally renowned and respected theatre company. Our Founder, Hope Ozer, and incredible Board of Directors have trusted in my artistic direction and leadership, professional standards, meticulous attention to detail and demand for supremely high artistic production value. I believe that is what has earned VYT professional status and acceptance as a member of Theatre Communications Group, the leading organization for professional theatre.
Several other things set VYT apart from other youth theatres. Our auditions are completely open to all young people – regardless of theatrical experience or training – and our casting process is 100% bias-free. And, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’ve been able to remain completely fee-free for performers. They don’t have to pay to participate, rent costumes or sell tickets, thus opening the door for even more performers.
What I’m most proud of, though, are our community outreach programs that provide accessibility to live theatre for Valley children who may not otherwise have. Last season, Sponsor-a-Seat allowed 1,001 disadvantaged children from dozens of social service organizations to attend a free VYT performance and enjoy a complimentary lunch with the cast and crew. 3,308 students from Title 1 schools received a free page-to-stage experience through our Literacy and the Arts program. And, 546 HopeKids and their families were treated to a free performance, before opening night, while 550 veterans, first-responders and their families received complimentary tickets to a VYT performance.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the beautiful diversity of our city and its growing support of the arts.
What I take exception with is the perception that youth theatre is nothing more than a stereotypical community or school play, with cardboard sets and store-bought costumes.
I’d like them to know that we offer jaw-dropping, breathtaking productions that receive standing ovations and flawless reviews. The quality of performers, designers, guest artists and production crews we have brought together, throughout the years, have begun to earn the respect and support of local arts patrons, politicians, media, philanthropists, businesses and other non-profit organizations, raising the bar for what’s expected of youth theatres, throughout the country.
I truly believe youth theatre deserves the same support, resources and respect as a professional theatre company. We are proving, every day, there’s nothing young performers can’t achieve with the right inspiration and direction.
- All seats at all shows in our theatre are $20, plus a $2 online processing fee, if purchased online.
- Address: 525 N First Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
- Website: www.vyt.com
- Phone: 602.253.8188
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @vytphoenix
- Facebook: @valleyyouththeatre
- Twitter: @vytphoenix
- Other: LinkedIn @vytphoenix
Valley Youth Theatre