Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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Youth Theater Born Again

Menomonie stage group forges ahead independently

Lisa de Felice, photos by Tim Mather

FINDING AN AUDIENCE. Red Cedar Youth Stage director Blaine Halverson in the theater group’s new performance space above The Acoustic Café in Menomonie.
FINDING AN AUDIENCE. Red Cedar Youth Stage director Blaine Halverson in the theater group’s new performance space above The Acoustic Café in Menomonie.

Blaine Halverson has a passion for helping kids express their artistic abilities, and he’s done a great job doing so through the founding of the Red Cedar Youth Stage. Also known as ReCYS (pronounced “ree-sis”), the Red Cedar Youth Stage is an independent art company that showcases the talents of youths, from preschool all the way through college.

In Halverson’s words, ReCYS “exists to serve by creating opportunities for young people to engage in and experience the theater arts as performers, participants, and patrons.” This is also the company’s heartfelt and powerful mission statement that guides the theater company and those who participate in it.

The theater bug first bit Halverson when he was six years old, and theater has always been a part of his life ever since. In 2009, Halverson established the theater company under the umbrella of the Menomonie Theater Guild while working as the Guild’s executive director. In July, Halverson and ReCYS branched away from the Menomonie Theater Guild and ReCYS became an independent organization. “We’ve really done some remarkable things with young people,” Halverson said. “This gives me an opportunity to expand what we’re doing.”

Expand, indeed. ReCYS has plenty of events scheduled, and not just theatrical performances. These events include after-school programs, summer day camps, weekly classes, and even a lock-in – or “block-In” as the cool kids call it – which is set for the end of August. The majority of the events will take place in the ReCYS headquarters, which is located at 110 W. Main St. in Menomonie, above Acoustic Café. Casually nicknamed “the playhouse,” the building used to be a Masonic Temple. “I have been blessed to get my hands on this space,” Halverson said. “It’s just excellent.”

“We’ve really done some remarkable things with young people. This gives me an opportunity to expand what we’re doing.”– director Blaine Halverson on Red Cedar Youth Stage’s newfound independence

But for Halverson it’s not so much about the space as it is about what can be created in it, and then taking that artistic expression and spreading it throughout the community, which is why not all performances and events take place at the playhouse.

The process of ReCYS becoming an independent group involved a fair share of bumps along the way, “which is normal for any new startup,” Halverson said. But it has been a smoother process thanks to the supportive network of family and parents of participants. “The trickiest part is doing all the obligations, such as staying up all night to work on the website, so that you can get to the fun stuff, like directing and producing,” Halverson said.

To make ReCYS art accessible to all, Halverson is in the process of putting together ReCYS Outreach, a financial assistance program that will provide individuals and families with kids a chance to participate in the arts. It will also be a source of funding for art programs in the community.

Oftentimes, Halverson sees art outlets competing against one another to be the best or the only source of art in the community, which he thinks is wrong and is why many ReCYS productions will be performed on other stages besides ReCYS’s own. “I believe it’s important for the art community to really focus on collaboration,” he said.

ReCYS’s latest theatrical production, written by Halverson himself, is a musical performance of Snow White on Aug. 23 at Boyceville Community High School. To find out more information about the Red Cedar Youth Stage or to sign up for classes and programs, visit www.recysplayers.com or email Halverson at recysplayers@gmail.com.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.