5th Avenue Grooms Next Generation of Theater Pros

Orlando Morales and Bill Berry drive teen educational programs at the popular theater.
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Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre hopes to help create the next generation of artists and theater lovers, says Bill Berry, the company’s producing director. To that end, the theater encourages young talent through its 5th Avenue Awards program (on June 12) and the Rising Star Project, a five- to six-month training program with six weeks of rehearsals that culminates in a musical produced, directed and performed by teens.

Theater professionals, skilled in every aspect of stage production, mentor students who join “teams” in fields such as marketing, communications, stage management, costumes and technology. Participants pay no tuition, thanks to contributions and a grant from the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. This year’s show, The Pajama Game, ran in March.

Berry started the program in 2011 with the theater’s artistic director, David Armstrong, and managing director Bernadine Griffin; Orlando Morales currently runs the program. Their mission? To introduce teens to careers in the theater industry, while offering them a high-quality arts-based educational experience.

Rehearsals—six days a week—are intense. “We want to show these kids the level of work that goes into mounting a professional production,” says Bridget Morgan, The 5th Avenue’s communications manager.

The program uses a hands-on approach to nurture talent, says Berry, “not just to develop the next great actors, but to develop great human beings.”

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