WASILLA — The Valley Performing Arts Center recently finished the second week of its Summer Theatre Arts Program. They were able to maintain the program by cutting the attendance in half.

“The show must go on,” VPA volunteer and summer program director Jenna Worley said.

Executive Director Garry Forrester said it’s a bittersweet sense of relief. On one hand, they’re all thankful they’re able to keep the program going at all and on the other hand, it’s unfortunate they have to limit class sizes and cannot perform to the general public this summer.

On top of facility sanitization and limited group sizes, all shows can only be viewed by students’ friends and family. Only four people per student are permitted to watch the final performance of the class, and no one that isn’t with the play are allowed in the building during practice.

Forrester said there’s going to be at least two sessions this summer, with the hope of being able to hold a third as well. With the limited group sizes, he said they’re all booked up, including the potential third session.

With so many events and programs cancelled this year, parents have been especially understanding and appreciative of being able to bring their children to the summer theater program, which has been around for over 15 years.

“We’re just appreciative of the fact parents were willing to bring their kids out, and we were able to do it,” Forrester said.

Forrester said they perform temperature checks every session and ask parents for health updates.

“We see it as a positive to have it. It’s certainly better than not doing anything. All the parents have been very supportive and understand why we do it,” Forrester said.

Forrester said there’s a lot of new, young students in the program this year, which is very encouraging.

“There’s worse things to get hooked on than theater,” Forrester said. “This takes some interactive skills and team building… It can be a building block to other things. It’s also something you can do as a family.”

Forrester said they usually try to get kids involved in all aspects of theater so they can have a solid grasp on everything from acting and singing to lighting and sound effects, but their lessons are more limited this year.

Local parent Tausha Petrie expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to bring her 17-year-old daughter Alyson to the program this summer. Alyson has been involved with theater since the sixth grade and now she’s entering her senior year of high school.

“We were really appreciative that she had one more shot to participate,” Petrie said. “We didn’t think it was actually going to be able to happen.”

Petrie said theater has helped her daughter grow as a person, helping her gain confidence and meaningful friendships over years.

“We really appreciate them having something for the teens to participate in,” Petrie said.

For more information, call 907-373-0195 or visit valleyperformingarts.org/home/summer-program/information

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

VPA’s Program Mission, according to their website:

Inspire individual creativity and arts ability

Provide opportunities for youth to explore the arts in various disciplines that may not have otherwise been presented to them

Offer experiences in team building and working towards a common goal to young people from different backgrounds

Present the opportunity to make new friends with similar interests

Give young people tools to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers

Provide arts exposure and experience to disadvantaged youth

Spark a realization of individual talent

Enrich the lives of children who have limited access to an arts education

Build self-esteem and enhance interpersonal growth

Offer tools that will teach our young people how to utilize the arts as a form of communication and individual expression

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