Photo: Fred Lopez
The Historic State Theatre in Eustis keeps an eye on the future with their successful program, the Young People’s Theatre.
The theatre was built in 1916. It’s home to the Bay Street Players, established in 1975 by a group of theatrical enthusiasts.
One of their prized achievements is the Young People’s Theatre, which started in 1976 and is the longest continuous theater program of its kind in Central Florida.
Kirk Thomas Simpson, 16, and Tatum Donovan, 17, are two talented actors who have been a part of it for many years.
Kirk was introduced to theater at the age of 6 when his mother took him to “The Music Man.” He looked up at his mother and said, “I could do that!” Encouraged, she enrolled him in summer camp at YPT, and he auditioned for “Once on This Island Jr.”
“I had it in my heart I was going to be the god of Death. My mom told me, ‘They’re probably not going to allow a six-year-old to play the God of Death.’ I ended up getting the God of Water. I’m very thankful to Amanda [Warren] for believing I could pull that off.”
Tatum has also been acting since she was 6. “When I first started auditioning, I used to get so nervous, but now it’s like second nature and I just go do it.”
Tatum believes the theater is a worthwhile pursuit for young people. “It has taught me to be more confident in myself,” she says. “I know I can do something by myself. When I’m on stage I know it’s going to be OK. I feel this rush, like it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
Kirk says he had to overcome some of challenges as he was growing up. “If you’re trying to sing and your voice keeps cracking, it’s tough, so between the ages of 12-14, you do a lot of talk-singing.”
Tatum loves that working in the theater is different from anything else she does. “The theater is an amazing place, and I’ve met a lot of amazing people that I’m going to cherish forever,” she says.
Kirk has no plans to stop anytime soon. “Whenever I get up on stage, everything else fades away. I can meld into whatever character I play, and anything else that happens in my life doesn’t matter,” he says.
His thoughts about the Young People’s Theatre echo Tatum’s. “I love the people. I have more friends in the theater than I have anywhere else. I end up sitting through school thinking, I can’t wait until I get to go to theater.”