Director, Film and Television Producer Applauds Lifelong Benefits of Children in Theatre
Bradley Yonover is the ultimate stage dad. He drives his girls to and from rehearsals, helps behind the scenes whenever he can, and supports his daughters during their performances at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre. For more than four years, his daughters Jaden, 15, and Mimi, 12, have performed in four to six shows a year. They have multiple performances and occasionally multiple roles per show. After all this experience, the girls have one important, self-imposed rule: Don’t look at Dad.
“I’m totally the nerdy dad on the verge of tears. The girls say, ‘I can’t look at Dad or I’ll start laughing,’” says Yonover. “When I watch the girls perform, I feel like my heart is going to explode with feelings of pride and excitement. This goes beyond the kindergarten Christmas pageant; this is real stuff.”
Yonover lives in Paradise Valley with his wife, Sarah, and their daughters. He understands firsthand how theatre can shape young lives, having grown up performing at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago. It was the perfect springboard for his 20-year career in the entertainment business as a movie and television producer. He is also one of the original founders of GreeneStreet Films, which has produced approximately 20 films, garnering five Oscar® nominations, several Golden Globes and numerous awards, including wins at festivals like Cannes and Sundance.
“I know what effect it has on children. The growth that we saw with our kids – learning responsibilities, learning about what they love and the kind of people they’d like to be – it’s all encompassing,” says Yonover.
Desert Stages is an award-winning, non-profit performing arts theatre in Old Town Scottsdale. While they cater to both children and adult actors, they operate a year-round Academy of Theatrical Arts for ages 3-15, where children develop as performers, directors, choreographers and counselors.
“It’s like one big family,” says Yonover. “One of the great things about Desert Stages is that the range is from high school kids to toddlers. It’s quite remarkable how they take care of each other.”
While Desert Stages’ two-theatre location has served them well for 11 years, they’re moving to Scottsdale Fashion Square in the fall of 2016. The new space was once home to Harkin’s Theatres and is nearly twice the size of their current location.
Yonover is not only a great stage dad, he’s also a smart husband. He made sure to say how much Sarah has been a part of their daughters’ theatre experience too. She’s the primary chauffeur, and has volunteered countless hours to helping with make-up and costume design.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world, with a beautiful, intelligent, driven wife and two unbelievable daughters,” says Yonover.
Stage moms often volunteer backstage in the dressing room, where the dads aren’t allowed. The moms chaperone, feed children and help them dress for performances, while the dads help with set-building, painting, ticket taking and snack bar. However, Yonover’s experience has been unique because of his background in production.
“Over the years, we’ve done a lot for the program because we wanted to, not because we had to,” says Yonover. “Part of the fun of this is being there and seeing your kids have this unbelievable experience. There’s such comradery.”
Everyone is included and celebrated for their uniqueness at the theatre, and each child plays a part or has a role.
“Our life as a family has been made much more full because of Desert Stages and the people there,” says Yonover. “I applaud the entire staff. The kids are given the opportunity to rise to their potential and beyond. The lasting effect is lifelong.”
His advice to other potential stage dads is simple.
“Do it! Don’t think about it. And secondly, jump in and jump in with both feet. This will be one of the most important things that happens to your kids.”