For over 30 on Tenino Young at Heart Theater (TYT) has brought the joy of live entertainment to our community despite having no theater of its own. That is about to change as they have just purchased land to build a multipurpose center in downtown Tenino, which will be the new home of the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theater.
The original concept of the theater company was started by Bob McKenzieSullivan in 1990, as an outlet for his own children who previously showed shows only for the family, usually of “Robin Hood”. The first neighborhood play, staged by the McKenzieSullivan children in 1990, was “Johnny Appleseed”. Since then, TYT has expanded to include both children and adults. “I love how theater can help people of all ages learn new skills and creativity they didn’t even know they had,” said Bob McKenzieSullivan, Managing Director and CEO.
It is a staple in our community, but there has never been a permanent home. “At first we did our first two shows at St. Peter’s Catholic Church,” says Bob. “In 1992, we moved into the outbuildings of Tenino High School and played there until the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer, we are doing “A Year with the Frog and the Toad” in the shallow drained part of the Tenino Quarry Pool in the municipal park the third and fourth weekends of July. Tickets for “Frog and Toad” are on sale now.
Now, thanks to an anonymous donor affectionately known as “TYT’s Biggest Fan,” the theater company will have permanent space to perform. Recently, bare land was purchased in the center of town, in the creative district of Tenino, on Sussex between Keithahn and Ritter. “Having our own space will mean an expansion of our season as well as classes, children’s performance experiences,” Bob shares. “We hope to exhibit local artists in our hall, provide space for meetings, lectures, poetry readings, etc. We also hope to have a workspace for fine arts and visual artists. The space will of course have a theater. with at least 150-200 seats.
The new building will be the mecca for local artists to create and showcase their work, whether it is a performance, painting, poetry, or whatever else an artist can create. Establishing the physical theater space will further strengthen TYT’s mission of cultivating community, building relationships and promoting growth through the joy of theater. “Now that we’ve won the property, we need to start designing the building, calculating the costs and raising money through donations and grants,” says Bob. “We are just starting our work with architects and the consultants are just getting started. “
“Over the years, I have attended many TYT performances and I am more than excited about this news,” said Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier. “TYT joined us in an increased effort to develop the creative sector in Tenino following the establishment of Tenino as a state-certified creative district. Having a performing arts center as the centerpiece of our incredible downtown will pay dividends to our community for generations far more than we have yet realized.
“The arts are so essential to the human person,” adds Bob. “Storytelling in all its forms helps make us who we are, children and adults. “
The Tenino Young-at Heat Theater is already working on grants and seeking financial support from the community to help raise the curtain on their new building. A community event on September 18, 2021 with performances, food and more will be the first official fundraiser, but you can donate now on the Tenino Young at Heart website or mailed to TYT, PO Box 202, Rochester, WA 98579.