Homecoming Event Brings Alumni from Afar for Celebration

First Stage’s mission of transforming lives through theater was apparent as each person stepped through the doors of the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center on December 30th for the Alumni Homecoming Event. Individuals who were touched by First Stage in its first 25 years of existence eagerly responded to the invitation to come back, reunite and celebrate our milestone year and traveled far to do so. Alumni came from all over the country – from New York to California, Rhode Island to Texas.

From the moment guests started to arrive, the energy in the building was surreal. They were greeted with open arms and in true First Stage fashion all guests received an Alumni Homecoming t-shirt that was then signed by friends, old and new. Alumni were able to walk down memory lane in the “Hall of Memories,” a whole studio dedicated to memorabilia from the past 25 years - production and Theater Academy photos, props and costumes from former shows, and even scrapbooks Alumni themselves brought to share.  Guests were treated to performances by Alumni and current students and Patrick Schmitz led a mix of both in the ever-popular, Organized Chaos!

Because being a part of First Stage is an experience unlike any other, First Stage Alumni share a very special bond.  “What was particularly amazing was the overall interest in how First Stage has evolved and the wonderful new MYAC space.  No matter if Alumni spent one summer or 10 years at First Stage, there was a genuine interest to reconnect and be a part of First Stage again – and hopefully for years to come!” said Luke Kowal.

Alumni are an extremely important part of our organization and we want them to feel that way.  Artistic Director, Jeff Frank shared this sentiment in closing words:
“All of you are doing different things with your lives, but thank you for being a part of First Stage and for choosing to live your life in a way that will impact the world in a positive manner.

That is why we are all here. In a world of ever increasing darkness, we must guide one another toward the light — and I thank you all for the radiance you bring to us and to the rest of the world. We are forever in your debt. We can do no less that promise you all that we at First Stage will continue the work you so nobly began. We are committed to broadening our reach and deepening our impact – offering hope and inspiration for our young people and the potential for change in our community.”

At this event, Alumni shared their ideas for a new Alumni Association called Next Stage and told their own stories about the impact First Stage has made and continues to make in their lives.  This Homecoming event is a springboard for Next Stage to create more opportunities for Alumni involvement and we are excited about what the future holds for these individuals who will always think of First Stage as “home.”

Elyse Edelman summed up the event as I’m sure many would:

The alumni reunion was a special night for me. It was an opportunity to reminisce with generations of mentors, teachers, fellow actors, friends, and even a few students of mine.  These people have been integral in my life, as many of them have literally watched me grow up. I was able to acknowledge and thank those who instilled in me a curiosity to comprehend what’s beyond my immediate world - who gave me the confidence to stand on my convictions and articulate my values - and who taught me the importance of compassion in a world where “bullying” exists on all sorts of levels. Thank you First Stage for an amazing night. Here’s to the next 25 years of touching lives through theater!”

If you are interested in being a member or volunteer of the First Stage Alumni Association, contact Nancy Clarkin at 414-267-2938 or nclarkin@firststage.org.

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