By the Numbers: Wrap Up of the 2015/16 Season for the Education Department

Thank you to the generous corporations, foundations, government agencies, board members, and countless individual donors who supported our education programs this season. With your help we reached over 83,000 students across the Pacific Northwest region, increased our service by 14% and kept our thriving programs accessible to all students.

Here’s a closer look….
Continue reading “By the Numbers: Wrap Up of the 2015/16 Season for the Education Department”

Meet the Pioneers: Jameson, Mary and Craig

Three more pioneers journey west: Jameson Woodling (Allen Fitzpatrick), Mary (Taryn Darr) and Craig (Eli Lotz). Jameson Woodling is the husband of Cayla, until she frees herself from him. (Allen is pulling double duty, also portraying Craig’s Dad.) Mary is one of the ladies who comes to town after the miners have set up camp. (Taryn is also pulling double duty, starting out as Sarah Woodling, the second wife of Jameson Woodling.) Craig is a young man who travels west with his father, both hoping to make a new start for their family.

Allen Fitzpatrick WebPortraying Jameson Woodling is 5th Avenue veteran, Allen Fitzpatrick. Most recently on our stage, Allen was seen as big boss himself Biggley in How to Succeed… He has over forty appearances on Seattle stages, including 21 here at The 5th. Allen was also a regular on Broadway, having performed in ten shows on the Great White Way. He is also the Artistic Director of the Icicle Creek New Play Festival. You can find out more about him at

Taryn Darr WebTaryn Darr is also no stranger to our stage, having also been seen earlier this season in How to Succeed… Some of her other favorite roles at The 5th include A Chorus Line (Val), White Christmas (Judy), Jasper in Deadland (Secretary Hathaway), ELF, Catch Me… and Spamalot. Taryn has also been seen regionally in Chicago (Roxie), Legally Blonde (Brooke), South Pacific (Nellie) and Something Rotten (NYC Lab).

Eli Lotz Web

Eli is returning to The 5th for the first time this year, but he’s practically a veteran of our stage at this point: he has been in our productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Oliver!, as well as the Rising Star Project: Spamalot. Eli has also been seen in A Christmas Carol at ACT, and has been involved with over 30 shows at Edmonds Heights K-12.

Don’t miss Allen, Taryn, Eli, and the other pioneers, in our ‘revisal’ production of Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon. The show runs June 2 through June 25. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Rising Star Project Participants Tell You About Their Experience

The Rising Star Project wrapped up this last weekend with smashing performances of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. These students filled roles on stage, in the orchestra, on the crew, behind the scenes and in administrative roles. They have certainly learned a lot of new real world skills along the journey to producing their own show right on our stage.

Natalie and Isabelle’s Rising Star Project Experience

Natalie and Isabelle are getting ready for opening night of the Rising Star Project. In its 5th year, the Rising Star Project is presenting their production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying right here on our stage. Seventy-nine talented teens are working on every aspect of the full scale production—from the cast and orchestra to arts administration and the backstage technicians. Here is what Natalie and Isabelle have to say about their experience so far.

1516_RSP_H2$_RSP Experience
Natalie and Isabelle
Ages 15 and 18

Why did you want to participate in Rising Star Project?

 Natalie: I wanted to participate because I wanted to learn more about working at the theater. It’s helpful to know how to respond in stressful situations and I get to learn how to be in high energy situations.

Isabelle: I wanted to participate in RSP because I have been involved for three years – it has always been a great experience.

 What have you enjoyed most so far this year?

 Natalie: I like learning and experiencing new things. Although I am in the same job as last year (which I love!), I get to learn more about my area of tech – My mentor is giving me more responsibility and I love it!

 Isabelle: I love that we are trained by professionals and get to learn so much from them! They are very helpful.

 What new skills have you learned?

Natalie: I have learned how to “knife the dog”! – which is a fun term for how to work the automated tracks that move set pieces back and forth on stage.

Isabelle: I learned how to put on a wig, how to set up a microphone, how to sew better, and how to properly quick change an actor!

 Has Rising Star Project taught you anything about yourself?

Natalie: I have learned that I am a hard worker, I like to work in high energy and I can keep my cool under pressure. I also learned that I can get along with many different people and work well with everyone.

Isabelle: I have learned that I really would like to work in theatre and I love the technical aspects of the show!

What would you like to say to the supporters of The 5th?

 Isabelle: Thank you so much for helping to support RSP. This is truly an incredible opportunity for all of the students – including me!

Natalie: It’s so wonderful that donors support us because I could never pay for this experience and I have gained real workplace skills that will help me in the future. Thank you very much for giving me this fantastic opportunity. Because of you, I have been able to grow, learn, interact, and develop new skills that I will use for the rest of my life!

Come see Rising Star Project: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on March 4 and 5. Click here to find out more and buy tickets.

Highlights from the Rising Star Project Kick Off Weekend

Last weekend, teens representing over 40 Washington high schools gathered at The 5th to celebrate the start of Rising Star Project rehearsals.  In March they will present their own production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and members of the professional cast and crew also joined in the festivities.

Such an auspicious occasion, always calls for a “kick off” dance routine:


20160130 RSP KickOff Kyle Nik Atreal

Professional company members, Kyle Carter (left) and Nik Hagen (right) had no shortage of wisdom to begin dispensing.

20160130 20160130 RSP KickOff

The mission of Rising Star Project puts a focus on community building, leadership, and love for musical theater.  To learn more, visit our website.

And don’t miss the Rising Star Project production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying!
March 4, 8 PM & March 5, 2 PM

Get your tickets today!

By ORLANDO MORALES, Director of Rising Star Project and Internships

A Uniquely American Quilt: Partners in Empowering Youth Through Musical Theater


Sheri and Les Biller chat with Rising Star Project students backstage.

The Rising Star Project was first presented in 2011, and since 2013 it has grown and developed in partnership with The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. While preparing for this year’s Rising Star Project—our fifth year mentoring Washington teenagers—we chat with Sheri and Les about their hopes and goals for the program to continue creating new opportunities for students, the community and the theater.


“Musical theater is America’s art form. It’s our quilt,” says Sheri with a smile.  “It has enabled us to share stories and discuss social issues through every critical period in our nation’s history. This is why it’s so important that we continue nourishing the growth of musical theater.”

The Rising Star Project is part of a diverse and ambitious portfolio of initiatives led by The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. Driven by a mission to invest in bold ideas that inspire collective action in order to achieve powerful results, the Foundation makes grants to numerous organizations in Washington State and Los Angeles County.

Les: “We work in four areas—supportive care, public education, career training and theater arts. We want to try to do as much as we can in these areas to benefit the community and to advance positive and sustainable change.”

The story of how theater enrichment—and more specifically, Rising Star Project—has become an integral part of the Foundation’s vision begins with Sheri’s childhood:



Sheri: “Theater was a big part of my youth. It was important to my family. As a child and as a teenager, I had my share of issues and got bored in school. But one of the things that saved me was being around theater, being involved in theater, and performing in theater. Having this creative outlet helped me learn how to express myself, and in such a positive way.”


Les: “I came to theater through Sheri. It wasn’t necessarily a part of my childhood—but through Sheri, I became a lover of theater and musical theater. Sheri also brought into focus for me how theater can have a social impact.”

The beginning of a new partnership

Sheri: “Because I have firsthand experience with the importance of exposure to theater as a young person, we seek to support inspiring theatre productions with immersive educational components. We believe that students need to have the arts in their lives if they are to become well-rounded adults.backstage_300x150

What caught our attention about Rising Star Project is that it isn’t just an arts program. We realized it touched on all four pillars of our Foundation’s work—theater, public education, job training and, as far as I’m concerned, supportive care as well. It embraces young people and can help them deal with issues in their lives. It’s very supportive in that sense. And exactly the kind of program we needed to become involved with.”

Collaboration, new ideas, and lots of fun

tech_300x150Les: “We love Rising Star Project because it teaches life skills. We like that it brings kids from different parts of our community together in a unique setting where they learn how to work together as a team and gain self-confidence while doing it. The other part of Rising Star Project that we are very proud of is when we bring new audiences from local schools lacking access to arts programming into the theater. The students see themselves reflected in the people their age on stage and behind the scenes.”

Sheri: “But Les and I also value the act of collaborating with others. Trying to create collaboration between an arts organization and a foundation may have its challenges, but the important thing is that people are willing to work together and try new ideas. And that also makes it a lot of fun.”

Sheri also draws a connection between the Rising Star Project partnership and the collaborative nature that is intrinsic to musical theater.

Sheri: “If we’re making a musical, it’s not just about having great voices and great performers. There are so many other important roles that are required for this to succeed. Most students don’t understand that. Most adults don’t understand that. When they go to a musical, most people only notice the orchestra and the actors standing on the stage. And of course, that is only a small piece of the puzzle. There are many squares on the quilt.”

“And now we’re back to talking about quilts,” she laughs.

onstage_600x300Stories for the future

Sheri: “Another dream for Rising Star Project and this partnership is in the possibility of encouraging other communities to do this as well. In the coming years, could we multiply tenfold the number of students who can participate?  We want to work with The 5th to create an example—the model for others to follow.”

Les: “It’s important work. We have thousands of years of history. And history is a form of storytelling—whether it’s done in a verbal way, or visual way, or done through performing a musical. We’re telling stories and that’s how history and values get passed down from generation to generation.

“My other hope is that while this important work is happening, the broader community will realize what it’s about and will also want to get involved and support it. We hope that the Rising Star Project story is one that is widely told and widely known and that many people will want to be a part of the story as well.”


Click here to buy tickets for the Rising Star Project’s performances of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Or click here to find out more about the Rising Star Project.

By ORLANDO MORALES, Director of Rising Star Project and Internships

Meet the Staff: Mo Chapman, Productions Logistics Coordinator

Any staff member with a question about what is going on onstage, in the rehearsal halls, in the alley behind the theater, or anywhere else in the building knows that there is only one person has the answer: Mo Chapman. Mo, who was one of our regular stage managers in the late nineties and early aughts, has been the production logistics coordinator since 2006 and is the keeper of the calendars at The 5th. Quick with a joke and a smile, Mo is a fixture of The 5th Avenue staff, loved by everyone she works with.

Your first gig at The 5th was in 1999 as a child wrangler on Oliver!—what was that like?
This was back in the Frank Young days, and I come in and meet these kids, and there were only 8 or 9 of them, not like our recent production. I realized that they need to be taken care of in a way that they didn’t feel like they were being babysat. So I brought in puzzles—and the adults would come over and sit and do puzzles with the kids! There were live chickens on that show for the “Who Will Buy” number and I remember thinking “Well at least I’m not in charge of the chickens because I’d much rather deal with the kids!”

Continue reading “Meet the Staff: Mo Chapman, Productions Logistics Coordinator”

The Rising Star Project Leadership Workshop

The Rising Star Project production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying goes up in March, but this season’s student team is already gearing up for the challenge!  The second annual Rising Star Project Leadership Workshop took place the theater last Saturday.  It was an opportunity for this season’s students to meet, begin building skills for the future, and talk leadership with Les Biller—local philanthropist and member of The 5th Avenue Theatre Board of Directors.

Here are a few highlights:

Rising Star Project Leadership

The 2015/16 Rising Star Project team will be composed of over 90 students from all over Washington State—future leaders in their respective communities.

Continue reading “The Rising Star Project Leadership Workshop”

Harmony in the Hallways: Connecting High School Students to Musical Theater

Last season, the Rising Star Project welcomed nearly one hundred students into The 5th Avenue Theatre to mount a full-scale production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The theater also partnered with educators to bring nearly 2,000 students from over 20 local schools to see the production created by their peers. None of this would be possible without the dedication and support of our partner teachers. They make amazing things happen for students every day. This is a snapshot of one of them.

At six thirty-five in the morning on any given school day, you’ll find Heath Thompson in front of a heavy-eyed group of teenagers at Kent Meridian High School.  It’s time for vocal warm-ups. Gradually, amid a couple of yawns and a few tired sighs, creaky voices give way to rising scales, arpeggios, and eventual melodies.

Continue reading “Harmony in the Hallways: Connecting High School Students to Musical Theater”

Learning Through the Arts: Spotlight On Kirsten deLohr Helland & Shaye Hodgins

This holiday season, The 5th will present a sumptuous production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. Two of the principal actresses in the show are also former students and participants in 5th Avenue Education programs, one of whom has become one of the hottest young stars in Seattle and the other who is ready to break out onto the scene. I took a moment to catch up with each of them about the ways our programs have impacted them as people and as artists.

Continue reading “Learning Through the Arts: Spotlight On Kirsten deLohr Helland & Shaye Hodgins”