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One of my favorite parts of summer is either going to see or be a part of the musical theatre production that the local Arts Outreach puts on.

Arts Outreach is a nonprofit community arts organization that promotes the visual, literary and musical arts in the Santa Ynez and Los Alamos Valleys.

Arts Outreach has been a presence in my life ever since I first entered elementary school. I still remember having so much fun participating in their various art workshops, and I made so many great friends and memories. The theatre has also been monumental in helping me discover and develop my passion for the performing arts.

So far, I have been a part of three of their summer youth community theater productions, the third being Mama Mia, which we are currently rehearsing for.

I have always thought of Arts Outreach as a safe space to practice what I love doing most — the arts!

I was excited to learn more by talking to the program's executive director, Sandie Mullin, and one of the co-directors of this year’s production of Mama Mia, Abigail Mullin.

Sandie Mullin has been a part of Arts Outreach since 2009, and she became the executive director of the organization in 2010.

I was interested in knowing what her favorite thing about Arts Outreach is (I know I have many).

“My favorite thing about Arts Outreach is that we have been providing art experiences of all kinds for the Santa Ynez Valley community for 41 years," Sandie said. "I love being part of an organization that strives to bring art in all its forms to everyone.”

I also asked her what opportunities Arts Outreach can provide Valley youth.

To this, Sandie replied, “Arts Outreach provides kids opportunities to explore their creativity in a multitude of ways — from visual arts classes to performing arts opportunities. Our programs also teach kids how to collaborate and work as part of a team.

"I am particularly proud that all of our programs have former students in leadership roles. Our Summer Youth Theater program is an excellent example," she said. "This year’s production team of Mamma Mia is made up almost entirely of adults who literally grew up in the program. Year after year, former participants volunteer their time and talents to help provide a new generation of performers with an amazing experience.”

When asked what my favorite parts of putting on the summer production are, I say that the rehearsal process is my favorite.

Sandie agreed and exclaimed that watching rehearsal is most definitely her favorite part.

She said she loves “seeing the kids learn all the new material and then practice it in a large group setting or smaller breakout groups" and that nothing gives her more satisfaction than watching the kids work together to create something amazing — all while having a great time.

I couldn’t agree more.

Rehearsing for the play is also always when I make the most memories and new friends, which is why it is my personal favorite.

I also spoke with Abigail and asked what her favorite part of the theatre arts program was when she was a part of it.

“My favorite part of being in the Arts Outreach plays was the lasting friendships I made over the years that I was in the program," she said. "Many of my closest friends, including my co-director Natalya, were my castmates from Arts Outreach.”

One thing I love about Arts Outreach is the lasting friendships I formed from participating in the program. I became closer to some of my best friends while participating in the summer plays, and it’s amazing to see other people, such as Abigail, who share that same experience.

When asked what some of her favorite memories are that she has made while being a part of Arts Outreach, Abigail explained that her “favorite memories all involve hanging out with my friends in the cast, and just being so excited to be able to perform and show off everything we learned over the summer.”

I still remember being invited to the production of The Pajama Game. I was absolutely dazzled by everything I saw: the costumes, the set, and most importantly, the singing and acting. I wanted so badly to be a part of it, and when I finally got to be, the experience blew me away.

I hope everyone will consider watching the production of Mama Mia that will play each night at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 through Saturday, July 31, at Kalyra Winery.

Admission is $20 for adults and $15 dollars for children, and can be purchased by calling 805-688-9533.

Hope to see you there!

Guest Commentary - Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my future. Whenever I do, there is a pit in my stomach when I consider just how much I have ahead of me. College? A career? I have no idea where I want to go to college or what I want to do with the rest of my life.

After doing some research of my own over the past year, and talking to highschoolers who are taking the same steps I am to find their future career path, I have some tips from my own experience to share with anyone who may be interested.

When I think of a “spark,” I think of passion. I think of doing something I love so much that it creates a warmth in my entire body, and makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning and get right to it.

Elle Arvesen is a local high schooler and the SYV News Teen Life columnist.

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