By Hailey Bennett Sundwall
In 2017, a driven 16-year-old actor had the idea to start a youth theater company and donate the proceeds to foundations in need. Three years later, Utah Valley Youth Players is still performing — and still donating. Proceeds from their productions have generously gone to Make-A-Wish Foundation, National Suicide Prevention, and this year the group will donate to the Covid-19 Direct Relief Fund.
This year, the group’s founder, Zack Elzey, will direct and produce “Into The Woods.” The cast is comprised of recent graduates from Lone Peak, Skyridge, Pleasant Grove and American Fork high schools.
The genesis for Utah Valley Young Players was when all of Zack’s high school theater friends wanted to do a show together over the summer — but they were busy with vacations, sports, and all-things-summer. Zack wanted to create a youth-run summer production flexible enough to fit the needs of performers.
When schools went online this spring, their theater plans went offline. Zack knew this year’s production needed to be special since it would be the last high school performance for the graduating seniors. In fact, he decided to cast only high school seniors, giving friends and strangers from many different schools the opportunity to perform one last time together.
Previous productions were centered around the idea of “Shakespeare in the Park” with productions including “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Titus Andronicus,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “The Tempest.”
Music direction for UVYP is provided by Sierra Livermore, a BYU junior with an extensive musical background. “Into The Woods” is a big undertaking, as composer Stephen Sondheim is known for some of the most complicated musical theater. Not only is Sierra successfully teaching 18-year-old performers to sing this music, but together Sierra and Zack provide leadership beyond their years — to their peers.
“Into The Woods” is performing at the Heritage Park Amphitheater in Cedar Hills on August 5-8 and 10-11 at 7 p.m. Visit the Utah Valley Youth Players Facebook page for more information.