Trumbull Youth Association marks 50 years of theater

The Trumbull Youth Association is marking 50 years of theatrical productions this summer.
The Trumbull Youth Association is marking 50 years of theatrical productions this summer.

This summer, the Trumbull Youth Association will mark its 50th anniversary. Fifty years of giving teens and young adults in town something fun and creative to do during summer evenings and providing them the opportunity to experience the world of theater while working alongside industry professionals to put together productions for the entire community.
To celebrate the milestone, there will be a concert on June 1 at Trumbull High School. The concert will bring together performers, administrators, creative staff, and volunteers from the past 50 years. The concert features alumni (some of whom are equity professionals) and current members performing musical numbers from past shows including West Side Story, Shrek, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys & Dolls, and Footloose, to name a few.
It was no accident that West Side Story was the very first TYA summer musical. The late 1960s were difficult years to be a teen. Political assassinations, race riots, and street demonstrations were unraveling the social fabric. War in Vietnam daily claimed young American lives, while a full-blown counterculture of drugs was seeping into suburban neighborhoods. Today, teens face different problems, but there is no less stress for them. Drugs, politics and race are still dividing this country and there is still a need for this haven for the town’s youth. TYA helps the young people of the community build important life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and creative self-expression while developing lifelong friendships.
TYA summer musicals have been staged since 1969 and participants across all five decades echo similar praises.
“It was a wonderful way to spend a summer,” said Nancy Drake Busch, who played Maria in that first production. “People were amazed at what was accomplished.”
Patti Pancoast Early, who performed in her first TYA production in 1973’s Guys and Dolls before also performing in Oklahoma and directed On the Town.
“I made friends with kids from all over Trumbull and all different ages,” she said.
Jeff Wright, who acted in Once Upon a Mattress, Me and My Girl, and Babes in Arms (1999 to 2001) and returned as associate producer for the 2003 revival of Hello Dolly, said the experience gave him confidence in his high school years.
“TYA gave me an opportunity to explore and develop my singing and acting skills as well as my leadership and organizational abilities,” he said. Like many TYA graduates, Jeff and his brother Michael are now musical theater professionals.
The same desire to support local teens that inspired Mary Keane to produce the very first production of West Side Story in 1969, moved MaryJoan Wright and Merial Cornell to step forward as today’s TYA producers. Longtime TYA parents and behind-the-scene volunteers, Wright and Cornell believe in the importance of TYA. “Everyone who has worked on the shows knows the enormous teaching opportunities they present,” said Wright, “essential life skills — teamwork, presence, appreciation for the creative process — and learning how to ‘build the magic’ of a show from the bottom up.” “The Mammas”, as they are affectionately known, have been producing TYA for the past 11 years. Their first show was Seussical the Musical back in 2009. West Side Story will be the 2019 summer show (Aug. 8-11). All tickets for the June 1 concert are $20 and can be purchased online ( or at the door. There will be a 7 p.m. reception with refreshments, displays of memorabilia, an auction and more. By supporting TYA, you help to ensure that this theater program can continue to thrive. Any proceeds received above and beyond production costs will be used to purchase theatrical lighting equipment which will benefit both TYA and THS theatrical productions for years to come.