University of Utah Youth Theatre helps young people learn to communicate, collaborate, create and celebrate by experiencing, hands-on, the theatre arts. In the classroom, in rehearsal, and in performance, students learn valuable principles, techniques, and skills that help them grow as people and as artists. YTU develops and produces new and existing works for multi-generational audiences. Through theatre, our students celebrate the joy and magic of live performance, and of life itself.
- Children’s Theatre and Young People’s Theatre have long been part of the University of Utah’s cultural landscape. In 1892, Maude May Babcock left Harvard University to be the first woman to hold professorial rank, teaching elocution and heading the department of Physical Education, at the University of Utah.
- In addition to teaching at the University of Utah, Ms. Babcock also taught elocution and calisthenics in the public school system and at the Brigham Young Academy in Provo. Her early dramatic presentation always included her young students ages eight to eighteen from her public school classes. High school students were regularly members of her University Dramatics Club activities and productions. Miss Babcock directed The Bluebird by Maeterlinck as the inaugural production for the newly built Kingsbury Hall.
- Following this inaugural production, with the support of the Theatre Department Chair, C. Lowell Lees, at least one or two productions for young people were mounted on the main stage at Kingsbury Hall each year. Under Lees, the University of Utah was one of the first universities in the nation to offer a course in children’s theatre.
- In 1943, Professor Vern Adix joined the University of Utah’s Department of Theatre and established a young people’s season of plays at Kingsbury Hall. Professor Adix was greatly influenced by the work of Winifred Ward. In 1963, the Young People’s Season was moved to the newly built Pioneer Memorial Theatre and, with the continued support of Department of Theatre Chair, Keith Engar, Professor Adix continued the Afternoon Players productions in the Babcock Theatre.
- In 1982, Dr. Xan S. Johnson was hired by the Department of Theatre to build an M.F.A./PhD. program in Child Drama. In the summer of 1983, Dr. Johnson founded the Theatre School for Youth, a performing arts training program for young people ages eight to eighteen, through the University of Utah’s Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. Under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, the University of Utah’s Child Drama program was ranked number one in the nation (Published in ACA Bulletin, January, 1989), and the Theatre School for Youth was propelled to international prominence through students’ participation in numerous IATA and AATE Conferences.
- In 1999, the Theatre School for Youth was given joint oversight by the U of U’s Department of Theatre and the Department of Continuing Education. Theatre School for Youth, and its affiliated programs were brought together under the umbrella name—YTU. Amy Oakeson, was hired as Education Director of YTU programs.
- In 2000, Amy Oakeson was appointed Artistic Director of YTU. In 2001, Ms. Oakeson reinstated the Young People’s Season of Plays in the Babcock Theatre with a production of Laurie Brooks’ new play, The Wrestling Season.
In the fall of 2002, YTU ended its affiliation with the Division of Academic Outreach and Continuing Education and became an entity of the Department of Theatre.
- In late 2006, Penelope Caywood was appointed Artistic Director of YTU. She had previously served as a Guest Artist and Managing Director of the program since 2003.
- The program has grown from a simple summer workshop to a multi-session year-round theatre arts training program for children ages 5-18 comprised of three summer Theatre School for Youth sessions; the Youth Theatre Conservatory; on-site after-school drama programs; an extensive outreach program; and a season of theatrical productions at Kingsbury Hall.