Children will listen to other children in a way they don’t to adults, says Bobb Cooper — and he’s hoping an awful lot of them get to do just that over the next two weeks.
Cooper is directing Valley Youth Theatre’s April 5-21 production of “They Chose Me!” It’s a musical about being a kid in the adoption and foster care system, performed by 16 children ages 10 to 17.
“There’s everything from children adopted at birth to children in foster care, watching their brothers and sisters being adopted before them and being the last one chosen, to a young man at odds with his adoptive parents and others who absolutely love their adoptive parents. It’s really (a collection of) poignant, touching, heartfelt, funny stories,” says Cooper.
In order to get the message to Arizona kids separated from their biological parents, VYT is asking patrons of the show to buy an extra ticket. Called “share care” tickets, those tickets will be donated to local foster and adoptive children.
“Having been in the foster care system myself and having been adopted,” says Cooper, “(I know) it’s not something you talk about. And so when you’re going through it, often times you think you’re the only one. You wonder if your experience, how you feel, is the right feeling. ‘Am I wrong for feeling this way?’”
Given his personal connection to the subject matter, Cooper was touched by the musical’s diverse songs and stories when he first came across it. But he wasn’t sure right away about bringing the production to the Valley.
“(I thought) ‘How am I going to sell this to an audience?’ We find it difficult sometimes, unless we’re doing a title like ‘Annie’ or ‘Cinderella’ or ‘The Little Mermaid,’ (to attract an audience).”
But after spreading word of the musical throughout the local adoption and foster care system, VYT has found there is interest in the show.
“We’ll talk to someone and find out they’re adopted or they have adopted children or they have a child in foster care. It’s a story that hasn’t been talked about, that hasn’t been heard,” says Cooper.
He thinks its themes of triumph and love make “They Chose Me!” compelling even for those without a connection to the world it explores. And it serves as a reminder.
“It solidifies the importance that there are children out there who, for whatever reason, are separated from their birth parents ... There are tens of thousands of them in Arizona, and they want nothing more than to belong and to be loved,” says Cooper.
Tickets to the show are $20. “Share care” tickets are available only by phone and will be allocated to children by groups such as Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and Arizona Association for Foster & Adoptive Parents.
For information, call (602) 253-8188, ext. 2, or visit VYT.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Experience the complicated universe of adoption and foster care through heartfelt and humorous stories of kids and teens in “They Chose Me!” a musical making its Arizona premiere with Valley Youth Theatre.
When: April 5-21
Where: Valley Youth Theatre, 525 N. First St., Phoenix
Cost: $20 per ticket
Information: (602) 253-8188 or VYT.com