For over 30 years the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre (TYT) has been bringing the joy of live performances to our community despite not having a theater of their own. That’s about to change as they just purchased land to build a multiuse center in downtown Tenino, which will be the new home for Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre.
The original concept for the theatre company was started by Bob McKenzieSullivan in 1990, as an outlet for his own children who previously would put on shows just for the family, usually of “Robin Hood.” The first neighborhood play, put on by the McKenzieSullivan children in 1990, was “Johnny Appleseed.” Since then, TYT has expanded to include both children and adults. “I love how theatre can help people of all ages find new skills and creativity that they did not even know they had,” says Bob McKenzieSullivan, managing director and CEO.
It is a staple in our community, but it never had a permanent home. “Way back in the beginning we did, our first two shows at St. Peter Catholic church,” says Bob. “In 1992 we moved to the Tenino High School commons and have performed there until the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer we are doing ‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ in the drained shallow part of the Tenino Quarry Pool in the City Park the third and fourth weekends in July.” Tickets for “Frog and Toad,” are on sale now.
Now, thanks to an anonymous donor lovingly referred to as “TYT’s biggest fan,” the theatre company will have a permanent space to perform. Recently, bare land was purchased at the center of town, in the Tenino Creative District, on Sussex between Keithahn and Ritter. “Having our own space will mean an expansion of our season as well as classes, children’s experiences in performing,” shares Bob. “We hope to display local artists in our lobby, provide space for meetings, lectures, poetry readings etc. We also hope to have a space for fine and visual artists to work.” The space will of course have a theater. with at least 150-200 seats.
The new building will be a mecca for local artists to create and showcase their work, whether it be a performance, a painting, poetry, or anything else an artist can create. Establishing the physical theater space will further embolden TYT’s mission of cultivating community, building relationships, and promoting growth through the joy of theatre. “Now that we won the property we have to begin design of the building and figure the costs and raise the funds through donations and grants,” explains Bob. “We are just beginning our work with the architects and consultants are just beginning.”
“Over the years I’ve seen many TYT performances, and I am beyond excited with this news,” says Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier. “TYT has joined in as part of a greater effort to build on the creative sector in Tenino after the establishment of Tenino as a State certified creative district. Having a performing arts center as a centerpiece to our amazing downtown will pay dividends to our community for generations in more way than we have yet to understand.”
“The arts are so essential for the human person,” adds Bob. “Story telling in all its forms help to 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.