Starlight, Star Bright
Community theater group stages It’s a Wonderful Life
By Kenneth LaFave
The full name is Starlight Community Theater, though to its thousands of participants over the years – from actors and stagehands to audience members – it’s simply Starlight.
But it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call it “Starlight Family Theater.”
“The family makeup of Starlight is one of our strengths,” says Raquel L. Jarvill, president and board member of the North Valley volunteer theater group. Jarvill is usually busy working as a realtor for Arizona Realty, but she finds Starlight more than worthy of her time and energy.
“The company is comprised of a lot of families who audition for shows together. When our son, Michael, was auditioning, my husband would also audition and get cast and then be able to spend time with him. Our daughter got involved in the administrative side, and I serve on the board.”
Young Michael’s ambition to act and sing in Starlight’s production of Oliver! 10 years ago prompted the family’s involvement. Starlight was only three years old then, and just starting to tap into the hunger of theater fans in Anthem and the surrounding area for a live theater experience. Today a 22-year-old theology student, Michael is no longer in theater, but what he gained from performing for Starlight, his mother says, helps him in all his endeavors. Discipline, collaboration, reliability – these and other virtues are instilled in young theater amateurs.
“We do 11 shows and workshops every season. There’s something almost every month,” Jarvill says. Events include musicals, straight plays and educational opportunities for young actors. December brings It’s a Wonderful Life, a stage adaptation of the evergreen holiday movie starring James Stewart. Barbara Surloff, who is co-directing the show with Van Rockwell, sings the praises of community theater in general, community theater in the Valley, and Starlight in particular: “Wherever you are, check out your local community theater. When I first came here (to the Valley), there was only one theater. Now all these new ones have come up! There are adult theaters, kid theaters, and a combination, which is what Starlight is.”
Surloff means that Starlight does some all-youth shows, some shows with only adult casts and some hybrids – which is exactly what the family-centered story of It’s a Wonderful Life calls for. Like many people who work the artistic side of Starlight, Surloff was in theater pre-retirement, teaching the subject in school. Starlight enables her and others to continue their passion for the stage into retirement, in turn enriching young aspirants with their knowledge.
And the audience – which hails from all over the North Valley and beyond – is an important part of the alchemy: “Directing is trying to balance puzzle pieces until it finally comes together. The final piece of the puzzle is the audience.”
The physical theater is located at 1611 W. Whispering Wind Drive in Phoenix, in the Happy Valley area. But, says Jarvill, “The pull for actors as well as audience is all over the place, from as far away as San Tan and Buckeye. It’s a great, growing community. We’ve even had snowbirds schedule their visits around our shows.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit starlightcommunitytheater.com.