On Stage

Kidding Around

Welcome to the School of Rock

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the movie version of School of Rock, it takes awhile for the elementary-age students in substitute teacher Dewey Finn’s class to embrace their inherent musical talents and realize they have what it takes not only to excel at playing instruments and singing, but also to share their growing skills with the public and make it to a Battle of the Bands.

In Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth’s (BAAY) stage version of the play with the same name, it was probably assumed at the get-go that the young performers could nail the roles that required them to actually play instruments, belt out rock songs at the top of their lungs and have the resolve to do it all in front of an audience.

The reason for this vote of confidence is evident in the sheer amount of works that make it onstage during any given season at BAAY. During a recent fundraiser that successfully raised more than $14,000 for bathroom renovations, sprinkler system upgrades, stipends for musicians, show licensing fees and assorted operational improvements at the State Street space, artistic director Ian Bivins pointed out that Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth produces more than 20 plays, concerts and events each year, engaging as many as 1,000 children aged 5-17.

“BAAY has operated for years on pixie dust and duct tape,” he wrote on generosity.com, a crowdfunding website. “Magical things happen for kids even as the adults ‘backstage’ scramble to pay the rent, keep the building up to date, and pay for important ingredients like show licenses. These expenses have always far exceeded the revenue generated by ticket sales and registration fees.”

Although the successful Facility Fundraiser ended earlier this week, donations are always welcome at the nonprofit, which also runs an after-school arts enrichment program in a dozen public schools in Whatcom County, and an arts-focused preschool.

In addition to the School of Rock performances taking place May 19-21 and May 26-28 at BAAY—which, it should be noted, will feature two separate casts—upcoming events include showings of Cats June 2-3 and 9-10, auditions for The Drowsy Chaperone (which will be directed by the esteemed Teri Grimes), and summer camps focusing on everything from circus and clowning to swing dance, mixed-media art, theater tech, choir, vocal jazz and costuming.

Musical theater will also be a focus of study during the summer months, meaning that students interested in auditioning for shows such as School of Rock in the future will already be way ahead of the game. 

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