Wednesday, March 23, 2005

This program provides the community with a very important asset- by Edward and Susan Erickson

Date: December 15, 2004

To: Ron Gonzales, Mayor
Pat Dando, Vice Mayor/Councilperson
Del Borgsdorf, City Manager
Sarah Hensley, Dir of PRNS
Gary Okazaki, Park and Rec.
Gerard Manuel, Park and Rec.

From: Edward and Susan Erickson

San Jose, CA 95120

Subject: Young People’s Theater

This letter is in regards to the issue of Budget cuts and its affect on Young People’s Theater.

My daughters, Kailey and Melissa, have both participated in the programs offered by this division of the Park and Recreation Department.

They both attended many sessions of the summer workshops. They learned many techniques specific to acting as well as important overall skills like self-confidence, projection, memorization and group participation. All of the skills have helped them develop into dynamic, straight –A, motivated and self-respected individuals.

Kailey, our 11 year old, has flourished in ways we never expected through her experiences with the productions. She has been in 6 productions in various roles. Her first exposure to theater was when we lived abroad in Scandinavia. Her school had a wonderful Theatre Arts program. When we moved back to San Jose we were disappointed to find that the schools in our “neighborhood” had a deteriorating drama department; from the elementary school to the middle school to the high school. It was appalling to us that with our enormous property taxes, none of these schools has an auditorium or any sort of facility to accommodate a drama program. That is when we turned to Young People’s Theater. They have provided us with an avenue that the School District has been unable to fulfill. If it were not for the dedication and commitment to children’s theater that this organization provides, Kailey would have nowhere to develop and nurture her talents. This program provides the community with a very important asset; a safe, organized, fun environment where children can learn by example and direction the skills necessary to improve their dramatic abilities. The City of San Jose should be proud to offer this service. We ask that you carefully consider the importance of this department when analyzing the budget and necessary cuts. Lowering the funding for this program would be detrimental to the community and it’s children. Not only would you remove one of the few programs that support drama, you would also penalize the community by eliminating the generous donations of food and money to Second Harvest, City Team and the American Cancer Society. Other cities in the area (Campbell) are improving their extracurricular activities for young people. I hope that San Jose will also honor its commitment to the future leader’s of our society. Young People’s Theater is a place where children can follow their dreams and pursue their passions while developing into mature, responsible adults that will some day give back to the community of San Jose.

Please feel free to contact us if you need more information.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

YPT is a community treasure - Rebecca Haggerty

I am writing in support of the Young People's Theatre Co. (YPT).   This is a theatre company located in San Jose City Council District 9 at the Kirk Community Center.  I believe that YPT should not be closed.  In fact, it should be treasured and receive ongoing reliable funding.  This program is a valuable asset to our community. 
The YPT provides a progarm that is unique in our area.  It is friendly and local while also offering professional level skill development.  For some students it provides a one-week camp learning experience.  For others, it is a full theatre production experience.  For some, it is a launching point for further studies.  I am not aware of any other drama programs of this nature in the District Nine area.
My son attended several camps and was in one show with YPT.  He had a great time in the classes.  Also his self confidence and public speaking ability improved.  He carried these skills with him as he performed in several school drama productions.
Yesterday I attended a performance of Peter Pan.  It was quite delightful.  The amount of enthusiasm and energy was contagious.  The performers were fun to watch.  And, because the performance space is intimate, we felt like we walked into Neverland and became a part of the action.  This is the charm of YPT. 
Please support YPT.  Do not close it.  It is a community treasure.
Rebecca Haggerty

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ken Yeager: YPT must recover costs

Hi Lyn,
Thanks for your email.  Peter Pan  was a wonderful program, and I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to attend and see it .  It was a great opportunity for me to meet and speak with the kids involved with YPT, and also to meet some of their parents.  At the program on Tuesday night, I offered to meet with some of these parents in the near future to further discuss YPT.  Please let Tony Filice know in my office if you want to participate in that.
I have been working with City staff to learn more about what the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) has asked of this program director. From talking to PRNS Administration, they have asked this program to achieve full cost-recovery and therefore pay for the two full-time employees. PRNS has submitted their proposed budget to the City Manager's Office, and it will be considered and discussed by the City Council in May, and adopted in June. Before this item is voted on, there will be many chances (in the form of budget study sessions) for the public to weigh in and share their thoughts and concerns. 

I will be working with the PRNS Director, Sara Hensley, to discuss potential alternatives regarding this program in the near future.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions or concerns. 

 -----Original Message-----
From: Lyn Jenichen
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 11:36 PM
Subject: It was nice to see you.

Hi Ken,
         It was so nice of you to come to the Kirk Community Center last night, its great to see how much you care about our Community. We have to save this program, I want to do everything we can to help. Thanks again Lyn

Response from Ken Yeager

Rosie--Thanks for your email. I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience on Tuesday night at YPT's production of Peter Pan. I was pleased to meet so many of the parents, staff, and KIDS!! It's a great program. You have my pledge to do all I can to preserve the program. It is very obvious that many people--young and old--benefit from the program. Again, I appreciate your taking the time to write.
-----Original Message-----
From: Rosie Marks []
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 1:39 AM
Cc: Tona Duncanson
Subject: Peter Pan's Mr Darling speaks......

Dear Judy and Ken,
YPT changes lives for the better. It has to remain intact, fully funded and appreciated. With your support its future will be secure.
Our society cannot afford to cast aside programs like this. Listen to the stories the children tell in their own words. Read the stories the children write. The parents speak for themselves. It is time the children were heard.

KEEP YPT ALIVE! - Elizabeth Dickerson

Dear YPT,
Rumor has it that they are trying to close Kirk Center and the YPT?!?!?! I am so saddened by this. My daughter, Olivia Dickerson, has attended 2 of your Summer Boot Camp programs, a Christmas-time program, and is currently in her 2nd musical 'Peter Pan.' To see her beaming up there on stage, to see the light in her eyes and the confidence she exudes is something she can not learn in a classroom, at church, at home or anywhere else. We LOVE the YPT and, sentimentalism aside, I truly believe it offers life-changing opportunities and experiences for our youth. The disciplines and accountabilities Olivia has learned there are something I, as a parent, can not teach. Being responsible for holding up "her end of the bargain" to her fellow cast members and her directors is invaluable. The assurance she displays is fantastic and could not be gained anywhere else but there at Kirk, in the rehearsals, on the stage. I hope that the community will rally around you and keep you alive. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know!
Elizabeth Dickerson (Olivia "Dancing Indian" Dickerson's Mom :-)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The legacy of YPT is the children - Karen Howell

I was devastated to learn that once again YPT is facing closure. The legacy of YPT is the children, like my daughter who have gone on to be successful young people because YPT, Carole, Donna and the staff were part of her life. A simple ladybug with one little line and a self conscious nine year old is transformed into a confident person. Over the years, Carole has given so many children there one moment to shine. She has made those single moments in most cases more important than the big parts and big moments. Each person has their opportunity to be a star and she would spend as much time on that one moment as she would on any other part. Young people need to believe that they can do things that they only watch others do and be loved and accepted for who they are and what they have to offer as a person. Carole's impact on Kaitlyn's life is immeasurable and her humanity, kindness and acceptance of others are all qualities that Kaitlyn learned from her and her staff at YPT. Do not take away these special childhood moments from our children in our community. Even as Kaitlyn and her best friend's Christina's life moved in other directions, Carole and Donna continued to reach out to them and validate them. When Christina's brother died I will never forget among the crowded room at the reception after the funeral were her loyal friends Carole and Donna, there to continue to support and care.  You cannot take away these opportunities from other children. To make an impact on one child is amazing, to have changed so many young lives over the years is extraordinary. I will do whatever I need to do to keep YPT here. Please read carefully our heartfelt requests and let this program remain in our community.
Karen Howell

I would be devastated if YPT was closed down - Kaitlyn Howell

My name is Kaitlyn Howell and I would be devastated if YPT was closed down. I started to do plays there when I was in fourth grade. My first play was Winnie the Pooh. I played a ladybug. Carole gave me a chance to be a part of her production, even though I was shy and asked about 20 questions an hour. I went on to do seven more plays at Kirk. Kirk allowed me to grow as a person and create life long friends. Carole has given so many children a chance to get involved in theater and learned to express themselves. If you close YPT, I feel like you would be doing a huge disservice to all the children who would have benefited from the plays. This includes all the children in the play as well as all the children who come to see the performances. The closure of YPT would also stop the collecting of a lot of food for the poor. Every time someone goes to a production at YPT, they must bring at least two cans of food. All this food would be lost without the help of YPT.
Sincerely Kaitlyn Howell

Kirk Community Theatre - from Dawn Gaffney

When I found out that Kirk’s Community Theatre was facing being closed down, I was shocked. How could such a wonderful program be shut down?  My daughter has been a part of this drama program for two years now, and it has done so much for her. Not only has it provided a place for her to pursue an activity she loves, but it has boosted her self-confidence, shown her strong and lasting friendships, and a chance to get away from school work in a positive manner.

Due to recent budget cuts in education, the drama programs in high schools aren’t getting the funds they need to be successful. The classes are limited, and the plays and musicals are not getting proper lighting, sound, costume, props, and recognition. Should my child be denied the pleasure of performing only because her school isn’t an art magnet? Kirk provides her with a place to do something she loves, while also allowing her a chance to learn how to perform with lights, costumes, and sound. Speaking from experience, I know that being able to act with adequate equipment makes all the difference to both the audience and the actors.

As I mentioned above, the Kirk Theatre program has boosted my daughter’s self-confidence.  For years my daughter has been reserved around other people. She has never been very outgoing, and would get nervous when meeting new people or trying new things. But she always held an interest in drama. We tried another play program, but it wasn’t very welcoming and she didn’t make many friends. Finally, I convinced her to try out for a Kirk production.  When we found out she made the cast, she joined, and I think it was one of the best things for her. Being cast in the past four productions has let my daughter realize she has some talent outside of schoolwork. She is now excited to audition and believes in herself enough to actually practice and harbor the thought of receiving a lead. And who has ! helped so much in boosting her self-confidence? The staff of YPT and her fellow actors. The staff members have continuously praised her when she has nailed a character, and offered advice and suggestions when needed. They have taught her much about acting and about how to respect the stage, directors, audience, actors, and the various behind-the-scenes people. My daughter has grown so much throughout her time in these plays, and most of the credit goes to the deserving Kirk Community Center and its staff.

Shortly after joining Kirk and its productions, my daughter showed me how much she enjoyed the kids in her play. Seeing as how they are fellow thespians, they accepted her and her love of acting; whereas at certain high schools, acting is considered “uncool” and for “drama-freaks”. But at Kirk, they are all “drama-freaks” and can be themselves around each other.  Kirk is comprised of children from all over the San Jose area.  There are students from many different schools participating in this program. If it were to close down, many friendships would be broken.  Of course the kids could swap addresses and phone numbers, but it would be difficult to keep up friendships.&nb! sp; Should Kirk be closed, my daughter, and many other actors, would lose good and close friends they had made while doing an activity they all loved.

It is a well-known fact that children who are involved in their community and/or a sporting activity, are less likely to be out on the streets.  Adolescents who aren’t athletically gifted, or for those who just have no interest in sports, need some sort of creative outlet where they can enjoy themselves without causing trouble. Kirk provides that outlet. With weekly practices and dance rehearsal, much of a child’s time is taken up. If Kirk were to close, where might these children be after school?  Is it not safer to have the student under adult supervision while they enjoy doing an activity than to have them home alone or hanging around at school, or the mall, after hours?  School can be stressful for a student, not only are classes and teachers! quite demanding, but the social atmosphere can be overwhelming. At Kirk, there are no tests or pop quizzes, there are no social expectations. It’s only a place where a child could go to act. To enjoy themselves and entertain others.

Continuing on the subject of entertainment, I have been a Girl Scout leader for almost 26 years, and I have been bringing my Girl Scout troops to see the Kirk plays for 12 of those years. I know first-hand how much the girls love seeing the shows. They are able to experience the arts on their own terms.  They don’t have to dress up and sit perfectly still in a chair for 3 hours watching a performance they don’t understand. All they have to do is watch and laugh. Kirk is very interactive when performing for Girl Scouts, and they certainly know how to appeal to their audience. The girls are always screaming with laughter and whispering to each other about outrageous costumes and silly characters. The raffles and T-shirts are also a source of excitement to the young Scouts. If Kirk were to close, many leaders and scouts who have been c! oming to see these shows for years would be very disappointed to learn a special tradition would have to end.

Printed clearly on the ticket for Girl Scout shows, is a request that each audience member bring a can of food. This simple task has worked so well, that pounds upon pounds of food have been donated to the homeless on account of Kirk’s productions.  Girl Scout leaders find it admirable and a wonderful example for their troops. The canned food drive is a great way for Girl Scouts to help service their community. Kirk wasn’t asked to start this canned food drive, but it was done anyway. Respectively, at the past few “Parent Previews” that Kirk has put on at the start of shows, a large portion of the proceeds has gone to the Breast Cancer Association. Parents are willing to pay the extra money for a seat without complaint, knowing they are helping researches take one step closer to the cure for breast cancer. Again, Kirk wasn’t forced ! to make these donations. Yet, as a part of the community, they have willingly given food and money to those who need it most.

Conclusively, Kirk Community Center is much more than a place to act. It’s a place of friendships, laughter, self-improvement, and fun. Overall, Kirk is a wonderful asset to the community and should remain open in hopes of future entertainment and service for children, parents, and friends.

Dawn Gaffney

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Save YPT - Christina Fortune

   My name is Christina Fortune, and I have been in 8 shows at YPT.  I realized that Kirk  was the place for me after watching numerous shows as a girl scout.  My fellow Brownie and I decided to try out for "Winnie the Pooh."  I was new at the theater thing but Kirk made it fun.  Whether we were just exploring the interesting backstage area, having watermelon seed-spitting contests, or being pursuaded to show emotion on stage, I could never imagine a place that I would rather be. Before Kirk, I was shy and reserved.  Carol changed that.  Through theater and improv games, bootcamp, and of course the shows, I came out of my shell.  Soon I was volunteering to read in class, and making friends easier than I ever had before.  Even now I consider Kirk a home to me because home is a place where there are people you love and you feel comfortable in your own skin.  I love everyone at Kirk, especially Carol, I owe her and all of YPT so much.  Through it, I have made lasting friendships and accomplishments.  I am now doing shows at my high school and getting lead parts.  If it hadn't been for Kirk, I doubt I would even have the interest to do shows.  Carol and YPT have been there for me in my best and worst times.  I cannot imagine why a program that gives so much more to the community than it takes should be ended.  It would effect everyone from the audiences and parents to the staff and actors.  It would even effect alumni like me.  I know that I as well as many other alumni would be devastated if Kirk was ever closed.  It is an essential part of the community and many peoples' lives.  I refuse to watch this program that has been a vital part of my life be shut down as if it didn't matter.  It does matter, and it will be fought for as long as there are people who love it, therefore; it will be fought for forever. 

My mother Sue Fortune would like to add:

My daughter is 17 years old, she is a Junior at Archbishop Mitty high school.  She has been successful in singing competitions, she participates in choirs and school musicals, she is a peer counselor, she helps with the church youth group; she is one year away from being an adult.  I believe that Carol and Young People's theater helped her to become the confident, talented young woman she is.  There is no price that can be put on the life changing experience that YPT provides.  Please let it continue for the sake of all youth, for they deserve the same experience that my daughter was lucky enough to get. 

from Janet & Matt Berry

Dear Ms Berry and Ms Rosen:

 Would anyone from Willow Glen and perhaps the Cambrian Times be willing to do an article on the Young People's Theater at Kirk Community Center?  This program has been functioning for 22 years and has met numerous needs of the youth of both Willow Glen and Cambrian.  It has raised $78,000 for the city last year, has raised $7000 for American Breast Cancer, and collected over 100,000 quality can foods for Sacred Heart.  The city is highly considering cutting the program.  They say that they need to do budget cuts but in reality this program is pretty much self supported and as written above, actually bring money into the city.  They are threatening that if the program cannot double the income, then they will cut the program.  In reality, there is talk that they want to make the Kirk Community Center into only a senior citizen program at the expense of the youth of this area. In the past, the faciltiy has been shared and can continue to do so.   I thought it was ironic that Counsellor Judy Chirco was in your last issue of the WillowGlen Times (Vol 15, #3).  In one article she is a liason for the youth and in the other an advocate to the seniors at Kirk Community Center.  At the same time she is not supportive of this program in which none other exists in this Willow Glen/ Cambrian community.  Numerous youth are devastated that their beloved program will be gone next fall and there is no other.  Sporting program abound everywhere, but little is offered to the creative child.  My son's letter to Judy Chirco is attached so to give a child's point of view (especially the 2nd paragraph).  The following e-mail is for Rosie Marks who is an excellent spokesperson for the YPT, Additional information can also be found on our website  Thank you for the consideration. 


Thank you

Janet Berry
1760 Maykirk Rd
San Jose, CA  95124

Dear Mrs. Chirco

     Hi, my name is Matt Berry, I'm 13 years old and I use to be your neighbor.  My mom and dad tried writing but I felt that I needed to write too because I've heard that the city might turn the Kirk Community Center into a complete senior citizen program and close the Young People's Theater.  Now, I feel for the seniors but we hardly even use the facility.  We have
the cafeteria, rooms 6, 7, and 8 and thats about all. I'm sure we could also work with seniors by giving them free shows and more.  YPT has been pretty much self supportive and has still been able to keep up the sets and keep the program running.  That means they would be a good support for the city financially. Also, this program raises a lot of money for the
American Breast Cancer Society, so if the program was cut the city would be letting down a lot of breast cancer patients. 

    For me, this program is everything.  I've always liked acting, but my school doesn't have a good program.  I have never been good at sports and always just felt like that one kid who couldn't do anything.  YPT has given me a lot more friends, boosted my confidence, and gave me something to be good at.  I do not know what I would do without this program.  Just last year, I was introduced to it, and I already like it more than Disneyland.  This program means so much to me and all the other kids.  These are not just plays, they're my favorite things in life.  All the kids love it here, and to lose it would be terrible.

Please consider this letter.  it has taken a lot of time and it is very important to me.


Matt Berry

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Growing up with the Young People's Theater will stick with me forever - Nick Georgoff

I have been involved in the YPT since I was in fifth grade in 2000.
My best friend, Chris Brookmeyer, was doing an after-school drama class
at my elementary school. Since I did pretty much everything Chris did, I
decided that I would try it out. My mom knew the teacher, Kyle P. Becker, so
she was very happy that I wanted to try out drama. We had classes after
school, and performed for our parents. We did simple games, like "Colors"
and "I did it", acted in some skits, and basic drama activities like that.
After the performance, Kyle invited me to come to Kirk Community Center and
do their summer Boot Camp program. I was more than happy to do it, even
though I would only know Chris there. It was a great summer camp, I met new
people, and we performed around a Tom Sawyer theme. The staff was really
nice, and they were the key reason that I went and tried out for their next
play, Charlotte's Web.
The fall play of 2000 was Charlotte's Web, my very first play at Kirk.
I was cast as Mr. Arable, Fern's father. It was such a new experience,
acting under lights, learning lines, blocking, dancing (!), and singing with
groups of people. I remember during one rehearsal, we were learning a square
dance, and I simply couldn't do it. I don't know if I was embarrassed, or
too tired, or what it was, but I broke down. I remember crying, and Kelli
LaRussa, a staff member, helped me get over myself. I ended up learning the
square dance, and did great. It was stressful, for my first time, and
combined with just starting sixth grade, I was feeling the pressure. We had
a great run, and I learned a lot about myself, even though I wasn't the
greatest of actors. I didn't really react and only thought of when my next
line was, I was really unnatural, but I wanted to improve, so I came back
for the next play.
The spring play of 2001 was the Frog Prince. I was cast as the
happy-go-lucky bear, clad in a Hawaiian shirt. I recall having a lot of fun
with that play, and making a lot more friends. I won a sweatshirt during a
raffle, and I still have it to this day. Aside from my new friends, I
learned how to react, even though I didn't really do it on stage as much as
I could have. After Frog Prince, I went on to do the next Boot Camp, which I
believe was a Little Mermaid theme. That Boot Camp was really a turning
point for me. I broke out of my shell that summer. I used to be very shy,
only coming out to people if they came up to me.
I did not do the fall play of 2002, The Wiz, because I was too busy, but
eagerly came back for the spring production of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow,
playing Van Houton, a lead shops keeper. Between Boot Camp and Sleepy
Hollow, I lost a total of fifty pounds. I was so proud of myself, I ran
every day, I ate healthier, and I had a boost of self-confidence. I earned
the "Most Improved Actor" award during the run. Like every play, I made new
friends, strengthened relationships with old ones, and improved in my acting
abilities. Sleepy Hollow is on the top for favorite play I've performed in.
It was spooky, it was one act, and I thought the acting was great. By far,
one of my favorite productions I've been in.
Another summer passed, along with another Boot Camp. It was a Guys and
Dolls theme, and that was my favorite camp. We made cool hats, cool vests,
and got to act with cool accents. That summer I was in my favorite summer
camp I have ever done, Kyle P. Becker's Improv Camp. We played all the games
they did on "Whose Line is it Anyway", we laughed at each other, with each
other, and at ourselves. Kyle told me I was one of the best in the camp,
along with a large percentage of those at the camp with me. With even more
new friends in tow, we moved on to the fall production in 2003, Alice In
Wonderland, where I played the Caterpillar. Although I only had one scene,
it was my favorite scene I've ever done. I wore a really comfortable
costume, made creepy motions with my hands, and got to act as creepy and
weird as possible. Plus, I got to sing the Caterpillar song, "A-E-I-O-U",
all by myself, which I really enjoyed. Alice is in the top three of my
favorite plays done with YPT.
The next play that we performed was Cinderella, in which I was the King.
This play may be my favorite of them all. I was the King in both the Sun and
Moon cast, and I got to act even more. It was great spending my usually
boring weeknights at Kirk, acting with friends and family. During the run of
Cinderella, I got recognized by the staff, and was more involved in moving
scenery and interacted more with the staff members. The feeling of helping
was great, and I felt like a role model to the younger cast members.
Jungle Book came in the spring of 2004 and I was cast as Colonel Haithi.
The close friends I had made throughout my run at Kirk were elephants with
me, and I got to spend so much more time with them. Colonel Haithi is one of
my favorite roles I have played, and I had a great time with Jungle Book.
During the summer of 2004, I performed in the Peter Pan Camp, a prep
towards Peter Pan Jr. in the fall. When it came time for Peter Pan Jr., I
was cast as Mr. Darling and as Skylight the pirate. No words can describe
how much fun and how much I enjoyed every moment of Peter Pan Jr. The actors
around me were great. Each person fit exactly what he or she was cast as.
The story of Peter Pan is a great one, and I feel that Carole Ferris-Greer's
take on it was spot-on. I have never enjoyed a play like I have Peter Pan
Jr. That is by far, the only play where I never wanted it to end. After our
last show, it was a bummer. I knew I would miss the great cast and the great
mood that surrounded that play, but looked forward to what was to come with
version in the spring, the fuller version of Peter Pan. I reprise my roles,
but I have much more fun as Mr. Darling.
Looking back, I've been at Kirk Community Center since I was in sixth
grade and done a total of eight plays and five summer camps through YPT. I
have undergone so many changes. I was shy, quiet, and lacked self-esteem.
There is something special about the Young People's Theater that makes me
come back every year. This is not just me; there are others I have grown up
with in this program. These are people I never expected to talk to. With the
exception of two people, all of my friends at Kirk Community Center do not
even attend to same school as me. A major percentage does not even live in
the same school district as me, the same city as me, or the same zip code as
me. Kirk Community Center has changed me for the better. It helped me learn
to act. It helped me loose over seventy pounds. It has helped me to look
towards the future.
Like the story of Peter Pan goes, in the end, all children grow up.
Growing up with the Young People's Theater will stick with me forever. I
know for a fact that I have made life-long friendships here. I know for a
fact that what I learned from Carole Ferris-Greer will never leave me. I
know for a fact that everything I've ever done at Kirk Community Center
cannot be erased. I've grown up, but I'll never forget.

Thank you YPT.

Nick Georgoff