Milpitas youth fight to save beloved theater program

A community theater program in Milpitas is in limbo as the city considers other options for its community center where the group currently performs and holds rehearsals. The young people in the theater group want to stay put. Families showed up Tuesday night at the Milpitas city council meeting to save the arts program.

"This has been my life for 11 years," said Madison Moreno of Milpitas. "Everything I've known is basically here."

17-year-old Madison Moreno wipes away tears on the very stage she's dedicated her life around. She's been a performer in the City of Milpitas's community theater program for years with dreams to one day star on Broadway.

"I've been doing show after show, it's been the best experience of my life," said Moreno.

Families are pleading with city leaders to keep the program as is called Center Stage, formerly known as Rainbow Theatre. They call it a community asset since 1983.

"By stopping this program so suddenly and without notice you are taking away our second home," said Mikaila Parrish of Milpitas.

"I can't tell you how many kids have grown up here in support from the community support of our theater," said Joseph Weinstein of Milpitas. "I encourage you to fix whatever it is that's broken."

"Right now, the city council has directed staff to go out in the Milpitas community to ask the residents what kind of performing arts programming they would like the city to have," said Jennifer Yamaguma, City of Milpitas spokeswoman.

City leaders are evaluating the program before entering a new contract with the theater group. The group said the main issue is its home, the community center which is considered a prime location.

"There is definitely interest in the council to ensure there's equity in the use of the room," said Yamaguma. 

There are preliminary talks from the city to partner with the school district to house the theater group.

"I ask and I urge you tonight to direct the city manager to work with us and find a bridge program," said Romero. "Something we could do together."

The group said without many activities year round for youth, they don't want it to be their last curtain call.

"For as long as I've been here it's always been here," said Moreno. "I just hope that they understand that we are the community as well and not just a theatre."

The program was eliminated before in 2012 due to budget cuts and families fought back then to save it. The city has allocated funds for a performing arts program but it's unclear what it will entail. There will be a community workshop on August 22 with a decision to be made in October.