By TESSA PHILLIPS
BG Independent Contributor
The excitement was palpable as community members of all ages began to fill the Simpson Garden Banquet Room last night for the Horizon Youth Theatre’s 20th anniversary gala.
Kids sat at tables decorated with photos from past HYT performances and reminisced on favorite stage memories. Genevieve Simon, one of the guest speakers at the gala, spotted a scrapbook and sat down to look through it with her brother, Martin.
“Martin was part of Horizon for about two years, maybe longer,” Genevieve said.
“Our whole family was involved, and that’s kind of how I was roped into it,” Martin added, grinning at his sister. Martin, a senior in high school, has plans to study theater in college, like his sister before him. “Horizon definitely encouraged me to pursue theatre as a career. It inspired me,” he said.
After an hour of hors d’oeuvres, HYT members began doing what they do best—entertaining the audience. Scott Regan took the stage with co-founder Jo Beth Gonzalez and spoke about the importance of history and storytelling. “These two things separate us from the animals,” Regan said.
Regan became emotional as he shared a story about a child who had become ill and had been sent to the hospital around the time of an HYT production of “Winnie the Pooh.” Before a painful procedure, she had told her mom that she wished she was “back in the Hundred Acre Wood.”
“What does this tell us? To me, it proves that theatre gives kids something to hold on to during hard times,” Regan said.
“Horizon Youth Theatre came from a place of love,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who has been a teacher at Bowling Green High School for the past 19 years and who also directs the school’s theater program, reflected on the impact theater has had on her students throughout the years. “Always know you have a voice—theater is a place you can find that voice,” she told audience members.
On behalf of the HYT community, Vice President Keith Guion presented Regan and Gonzales with gifts to thank them for their years of service, custom-made plaques reading “20 years later, your vision remains our mission,” as well as framed artwork containing the thoughts of current HYT students made by Melissa Mintz and Anne Weaver.
The night’s performances were varied, and included excerpts from performances such as “The Three Little Pigs” and “Southpaw” as well as heartfelt speeches from selected Horizon Youth Theatre alumni.
Genevieve Simon, who had been with Horizon from its first production and now lives in New York and runs a workshop using Shakespeare to help kids with autism, shared with the audience some of the many lessons she learned during her time with Horizon. “Theatre taught me over time the power of saying yes to complexities, the power of saying yes to the unknown,” Simon said. “This is a place where kids are listened to—the show was always on our shoulders. ” (She presented a workshop earlier in the day. See http://bgindependentmedia.org/bg-native-genevieve-simon-returns-for-hyt-20th-anniversary/)
The program ended when Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards declared July 15, 2017 as Horizon Youth Theatre day, eliciting raucous applause and cheers from the audience.
“There’s something special in this room,” Edwards said. “Whatever we can do to support and promote the arts is terribly important.”
Keith Guion offered a final toast, to which the entire audience raised their glasses, embellished with the HYT logo. ‘Here’s to Horizon Youth Theatre—may it be a part of the Bowling Green community for a long, long time.”