Rhode Island Youth Theatre (RIYT), known as Fantasy Works Youth Theater for the first 23 years of its history, emerged from the ideas presented in an original paper on talent development, written by Ann O’Grady as she pursued her doctorate at the University of Connecticut. The paper was entitled “The Real Work of Fantasy,” and described a youth theatre company run by high school and college students who were considering careers in the arts.
In 1987 the wheels were set in motion, and Fantasy Works opened as a two-week summer camp run by student directors, working in collaboration with professional mentors. Over 200 shows and 12,000 students later, the recently renamed Rhode Island Youth Theatre has grown into the largest youth theater program in RI –producing a student-run summer musical series, after-school programs, and original plays for educational venues, as well as training program for students interested in careers in theatre.
Ann O’Grady continues to research best practices in youth theatre in order to improve the quality of the programs offered by RIYT. Several years ago, she spent two weeks observing programs and interviewing staff at the Tony Award winning Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company.
RIYT graduates have gone on to work on Broadway, national tours, summer stock theaters, community theaters, and schools. Our alumni include professional directors and choreographers, casting agents, production managers, arts administrators, technicians, teachers, and supporters of the arts. We have an active alumni network that helps our emerging artists make the transition to professional employment.
Two Moss Hart Awards — 2015 and 2008
Rhode Island Youth Theatre’s production of its original musical, “The Outcast of Sherwood Forest”, was selected as the New England Theatre Conference (NETC) Moss Hart Memorial awardee for 2014-2015. The presentation of the award took place at the annual awards banquet during the NETC Convention in Westford, MA.
This new musical started as a concept by student Mitchell Cardone, a participant in the Young PlayRIYTs program,and has been further developed over the past two years by RIYT students, alumni, and staff.
The Outcast of Sherwood Forest:
- Book and Concept by Mitchell Cardone.
- Music and Lyrics by Catie Flynn, Lauryn DeCrescenzo, Brooke Fennell, Nancy Hillner, Patrick McCrossan, Ethan Miller, Christine O’Grady, Jeffrey Roberts, Brian Roque, Harry Valentine
- For more information about the August 2015 premier of The Outcast of Sherwood Forest, Click Here to see the front page article that appeared in the Providence Journal on August 16, 2015.
In 2008, RIYT, known as Fantasy Works at the time, was awarded the NETC (New England Theatre Conference) Moss Hart special recognition award in youth theater for our 2008 production of Les Miserables at The University of Rhode Island’s Will Theatre in Kingston, RI.
About the Moss Hart Memorial Award
The annual Moss Hart Memorial Award has a two-fold purpose: to honor the memory of Moss Hart, dramatist and director, for his wit and sensitivity, for his unconquerable enthusiasm for life and for his work in the theatre; and to recognize and encourage outstanding theatrical productions throughout New England of playscripts that present affirmative views of human courage and dignity, that have strong literary and artistic merit, and which in their productions, exemplify fresh, imaginative, creative treatment within the intent of the playwright. The New England Theatre Conference, in making the annual Moss Hart Memorial Award, seeks to encourage artistic growth and the highest standards of excellence in theatre.
RI Fellows Award from the RI Foundation in 2009
In 2009, Executive Director Ann O’Grady (far right in the photo below) received the RI Fellows Award from the RI Foundation, enabling her to complete coursework on organizational change at the NTL (National Training Lab).