The spotlight will go out: the youth theater group will present its last show next month

No doubt, tears will be shed during the final show, and it won’t be comedy.

Real-life emotion will erupt next month when Spotlight turns off.

Spotlight Theater Group of the East End will conclude its final season with a final performance, ending a 10-year run of youth theater programming.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Kim Galway, who along with Darby Moore are founding directors of the nonprofit group.

Financial issues are the main reason for the decision to close shop, Ms Galway said. Spotlight was working fine until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

“Unfortunately it’s just the weather,” Ms Galway said. “You know, we’ve had 10 great years. COVID was really difficult. We are diversifying before COVID. And then COVID hit us and stopped us. Really, unfortunately, financially, it was a huge success.

“We came back because we wanted to and we wanted to give the kids a chance to play again, but unfortunately COVID made it impossible for us to move forward again.”

Thus, Spotlight will organize a last week-long camp from August 8 to 12 in Riverhead at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall (established in 1881). The camp will end with a showcase on the final day, featuring selected numbers from shows throughout Spotlight’s history. “It will be a celebration of our 10 years,” Ms Galway said.

About 16 young people are enrolled in the program, while 30 to 40 was the typical enrollment in the years before the pandemic, she said.

Ms. Moore and Ms. Galway met in the early 1990s at NYU, where Ms. Moore was teaching drama therapy. Mrs. Galway was his student and intern. They later reconnected after moving to eastern Long Island (Ms. Moore lives in New Suffolk and Ms. Galway lives in East Quogue).

Ms Moore had a great-uncle who was an opera composer and has fond memories as a youngster of dressing up with items from his family’s costume closet. She said: “I had all this artistic training © It’s in my blood.”

Ms. Galway had three theatrically inclined young daughters, who later went on to the Spotlight program.

Ms Moore said: ‘We got together and said, ‘You know what? Let’s do theater for children. ”

Initially, the duo teamed up with a third partner to form ACT OUT East All Children’s Theater around 2009. But that partnership disbanded in the spring of 2012 after its final production, “Guys and Dolls.” In the fall of that year, Spotlight was born, opening with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Wading River’s Sophia Burke, who started as an 11-year-old student at ACT OUT East, later became an intern and is the current Spotlight stage manager. “She’s been with us the whole way,” Ms Galway said.

Spotlight is not just about playing, dancing and singing. The group welcomes young people of all levels and finds a place for them. Children with autism, mental illness, emotional issues and other issues are welcome. The therapeutic value of theater is real, said the founders.

“It helps kids with their confidence, with their ability to interact with others, with their ability to problem-solve on their feet, to improvise, all that stuff,” Ms Galway said. “It just makes them more flexible and more confident overall.”

“We have worked with extremely shy children in social situations,” she continued. “We put them on stage playing a character, and they just come out of their shell, and it’s so exciting to see that transformation on stage and beyond.”

Kim Galway, co-founder of Spotlight, surrounded by Oompa Loompas in 2018.

The pandemic erased the momentum that Spotlight had built. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Spotlight was rehearsing for a scheduled May performance of “High School Musical.”

The show never took place.

“We just had to stop production on everything,” Ms Galway said. “You know, we didn’t know what was going on. We kept hope for a while and so on, but we just had to shut it down.

With the exception of one online program, Spotlight had effectively been sidelined for two years before returning last winter and spring when it presented “The Addams Family.”

“In fact, ‘The Addams Family’ was one of our biggest shows ever,” Ms Galway said. “It was a fantastic production.”

But the writing was on the wall. Spotlight’s days were numbered, and it was more than just finances. It was also life.

“I think we’ve all kind of changed because of these two years of COVID,” Ms Galway said. “Darby had retired and, you know, she kind of lives that retirement life. Sophia had become more focused on college and school and my private practice grew and I started doing other things. I’m doing college counseling now, so everyone, we’ve all walked away from acting, when it was pretty much a heavy focus for the 10 years.

Still, Spotlight’s impact is unmistakable. Some of his students went on to perform in high school and pursue acting studies in college. And, beyond acting, Spotlight has helped young people develop, the founders said.

“I think what we did over those years was magic,” Ms Moore said.

Ms Galway said: “I am quite proud of the program and the impact we have had on our students over the years. Just seeing them, seeing the alumni and seeing how successful they have been, how they’ve taken what they’ve learned from working with us, and it’s made them more creative and more willing to take risks. It was really great to watch them develop and thrive as kids. This is truly the moment I’m most proud of in Spotlight.

What will be the emotions for the curtain closing finale?

“Oh, this is going to be terrible,” Ms Moore said. “I mean, I’m going to cry – and so are the kids.”

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