Bellingham Academy of the Arts for Youth stages excellent youth theater in their performance space downtown, and arts classes in local schools. We spoke with Juliette Machado about their programs.
Are you originally from Bellingham?
No, I’m from Hawaii. I moved here for college.
What about Bellingham and Western drew you for Dance and Communication?
I know, strange right? I get that question a lot. Out of High School, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to study. And Western has a lot of options, and offers a really strong liberal arts education. I was attracted to that, and I liked that it was relatively close to home.
I’d studied dance growing up, and didn’t have any intention of continuing in college. But Western is one of 2 school on the west coast with an BFA (Bachelors in Fine Arts) for dance. So in that regard, I was kinda lucky.
Were you involved with BAAY before you graduated?
Yes. I did an internship there. And that segued really nicely into a part-time position, and then my first job after college.
Talk about the programs at BAAY . I think most people are at least generally aware of what a children’s theatre does, but in specific terms what makes BAAY unique?
BAAY has 3 main divisions. We have our campus which is the building that everybody knows on State Street, and it’s a performance space. Kids enroll in productions that are staged there. We offer shows for kids ages 5–18. We also run an arts-based preschool that’s run in the same space. And then the program that I’m in charge of in is called EduArts Enrichment, and we bring after-school arts enrichment to public schools all around Whatcom County . So, I coordinate with PTA groups primarily, and this session we have 313 children enrolled in 26 different classes around the community. We have classes in theatre, choir, visual arts, dance, and improv.
Do kids get first involved with the after school programs, and then then enroll in a show?
That’s the idea. Often the children will build a relationship with an instructor, and then when that instructor is involved in a show at BAAY , they’ll come audition because of the relationship they’ve built.
But EduArts is how we expand our reach. Those classes meet for just 1 hour a week, and they’re much more affordable than our campus shows. So, they are accessible for a lot more people.
So, are those semester long?
So, I imagine you have a Christmas show, and then a Spring show?
Right. I think this semester there’s a group doing Willy Wonka, another doing Green Eggs and Ham , and we even have some EduArts classes where kids are writing their own show.
If you have a free weekend in Bellingham, how would you spend it?
I’m also in a nonprofit dance company here in town called Bellingham Repertory Dance (BRD), so I spend a lot of my free days in rehearsal. But that’s what I love, so no complaints.
Classic Pacific Northwest answer, but I love to hike. I also like happy hour. We have a lot of good ones around town.
I love live music, so I’d like to see some music.
So, what’s the best venue for that? Green Frog?
Yeah, Green Frog is great. Boundary Bay actually had a summer series too. The Shakedown also has some really cool stuff.
I also work part-time at the Pickford Film Center.
So, BAAY , dance company, Pickford . . . you’re really well connected inside the arts community. How would you say the arts community here is unique?
There’s a lot of passion here, and it’s accessible in a way that the arts community in a big city isn’t. More welcoming, maybe? Networking in Bellingham is much more productive. You could meet 3 people in the arts community here, and be only one or two degrees of separation away from several dozen great organizations and groups.
It is small. We only have a couple dance companies, but what we have is very high quality. We do have something for everyone.
So, in children’s theatre how do you find the balance between having fun and pursuing excellence?
Some of that is determined by the age-group of the kids. For example, our Pixie groups (the 5-8 year olds ) are doing Silly Snow White and the Umpteen Dwarves —a fun, light, simple show. But our BAAY Pro group, the 16–18 year olds, are doing Les Miserables this year, which is a lot more difficult and technically demanding.
But along the way, no matter their level, kids are developing important relationships, and that’s the most meaningful part of theatre for many.
That was my experience in theatre as a kid, the friendships I found were the most valuable part.
Right, and at BAAY it doesn’t just stop with the kids. The adults are building meaningful relationships. It’s really beautiful to watch inter-generational relationships start to form around the theatre. Our instructors get very invested in the children as artists and as people.
If you could go back to school tomorrow, what would you study?
What I have in my sights now is a graduate degree in Arts Administration.
What is something that people often misunderstand about BaaY?
For performance organizations like BAAY , it’s hard to shed the notion that the final product—the show—is the goal. And we want to put on great shows, because that’s what parents and community members see.
But for the kids, the process is more valuable. The real beauty is when they learn how to work together, try new things, and challenge themselves.