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June 2, 2022
Fresh Face: Vital Theatre
Stephen Sunderlin’s first brush with theatre was during a public speaking experience in high school. But it wasn’t the spotlight that hooked him—it was the sweaty palms and shaky knees.
“I’ve never been more nervous in my life,” Stephen said. “I never wanted to have that experience again, so I joined a speech class. The speech teacher was also the drama teacher, and she put me in a play.” The rest is history.
Founding Producing Artistic Director, Stephen has been part of Vital Theatre since its formation in 1999, when he and three additional theatre professionals came together to create their own company.
“Theatre was a vital part of our lives, and we felt that theatre should be a vital part of other people’s lives,” Stephen said.
The team at Vital Theatre knows that a small seed of creativity can grow into a life infused with curiosity, wonder, and delight, and they plant those seeds into shows geared towards children and their families. Performing predominately original shows, Vital Theatre made a name for itself as a family theatre in 2008 after the creation of their hit show Pinkalicious The Musical, which still tours nationally.
After 24 years of producing shows in New York City, Stephen wondered if Vital Theatre’s success could be replicated in other locations. When Stephen’s daughter and son-in-law moved to the Lancaster area four years ago, he began visiting and noticed a rich arts community in the area. He started dreaming of what it could look like for Vital Theatre to perform shows for children and families in Lancaster. In May, Vital Theatre put these dreams into action and welcomed the first Lancaster County audience to its premier show at Mickey’s Black Box in Lititz.
“We’ve had a huge impact on our audience, as they come back again and again,” Stephen said. “If one person is inspired, if one person is motivated, if one person is touched by our work, then we feel like what we’ve done is vital.” For a list of Vital Theatre’s upcoming events and shows, visit vitaltheatre.org.