Choreography rehearsals with the White Lake Youth Theatre for the play LOVE.

WHITEHALL – When many local summer programs were canceled, The Playhouse at White Lake turned to a virtual model for their professional summer series, but decided to include an important piece of in- person summer theater offerings.

While From Our House to Yours, Virtual Summer Theatre has already begun, and runs online through Aug.t 15, there will also be an outdoor, distanced youth theatre production offered in the courtyard of the Playhouse this summer.

The White Lake Youth Theatre (WLYT) program was established in 1973 and has been a staple of summer fun and theater arts education for generations. This year, with safety concerns in mind, the program has been offered outdoors, at a physical distance, with an intentionally small cast and facial coverings worn for additional safety.

Erin Kanaar, a 15-year-old student at Montague High School, said about the summer play, titled LOVE, “I am so glad that there was still a way for us to see our friends and put on a production this summer! With everything going on right now, the arts are just as important, if not more important, than before.”

The script for LOVE was chosen by longtime WLYT director Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema, who says the experience has been really rewarding for teachers and students.

“In addition to the value of learning theater, meeting students from all over the shoreline allows our kids the chance to make new friends, expand their horizons and develop socially, emotionally and mentally through the experience, as well. Especially at a time when students are feeling so disconnected from their peers, Beth Beaman (Managing Director of the Playhouse) and I felt it was critical that we get creative and offer some type of programming. We are happy to have found a solution that matches the importance of safety with the benefits of connection, even at six-feet apart.”

Rehearsals begin in the grass each day, beneath a shady tree on the Playhouse property. Students start by stretching and doing some mindful, calming breath work, before sharing one at a time, the highlight and the low of their day so far. As much time is spent developing this sense of community and cultivating the importance of communication as in rehearsal of the play itself.

“My experience with the White Lake Theatre group this summer has been very educational and fun. It has taught me a bunch of things that I will use for my future career in the arts. I am very thankful for this opportunity,” said 16-year-old Aubrey Macintosh, who gets rides down from Pentwater three times a week for these rehearsals.

She has met friends from many different areas that she would not normally have had the chance to meet, and loves that there is a way to continue training in theatre this summer. Involving a cast of 11 students ages 12 through 18, with a strong student directing team built of former WLYT alumni, the production has been a bright spot in the summers of all those involved.

LOVE, by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, the WLYT outdoor play, opens with three physically distanced performances, free to the public, July 39, 32 and August 1, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 PM. There will be a limited amount of outdoor seating available and tickets are required and available through the Playhouse website.

Patrons must bring their own seating and facial coverings must be worn for the safety of our students and community.

Tickets can be found at thePlayhouseatWhite Lake.org and donations will be accepted in advance at the ticketing website, and also in person at the performance. There is a private group for the White Lake Youth Theater program on Facebook, and all interested West Michigan families and students are encouraged to join the group to learn about future offerings.