Sentiment filled the auditorium as children scampered out for the final curtain call of All About Theater’s closing of Aladdin Junior. Only eight weeks ago these fresh actors were of filing in for auditions, some for the very first time, but as they all stood hand in hand for their final mismatched bow, their broad smiles displayed an undoubted and accomplishment both on and off the stage. The Louden Nelson has sold out and is bursting with parents, grandparent, siblings, relatives and friends all cheering for his or her little starlet.
To say that people are fond of Lindsey Chester would be an understatement. Lindsey has become one of the most prominent and celebrated figures in the county since founding Santa Cruz’s principal youth theater company 10 years ago. Lindsey's British wit is immediately captivating; her inexplicable ability to hold countless conversations allows everyone is the room feel significant. Lindsey doesn’t miss a beat as she simultaneously scribbles checks to crew members, directs teenagers how to disassemble the set, and collects donations from concessions all while accepting thank yous from gushing parents.
With Lindsey’s guidance All About Theater pumps out 11 productions a year: for tots, ages 6 through 8, youth, 8 through 13, and teens, 13 through 19. From auditions to closing each production lasts about three months and they often overlap. In addition All About Theater has recently added an array of classes including singing, acting, improve, and dance. Lindsey’s expertise for theater has allowed her to play the roles of artistic director, set and costume designer, musical director and choreographer.
As far as education is concerned Lindsey has absolutely no degree in theater.
“My training in musical theater is from being onstage” she said, “For me it’s an innate understanding of how to work with kids and educate them.”
Instead of pursuing her passion for the arts in college, Lindsey followed her parents’ advice to choose a more traditional route. After four years she received a Bachelors of Science degree in neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She attributes her science education background to her distinctive style of directing.
“I have a different education, a different background. I think how I address the kids is slightly different than most other directors in town because I have a science education background and not your typical musical theater degree.”
It is because of her degree in neuroscience that Lindsey initially found her way to California. After studying in Edinburg for a few years, she decided that she needed a new environment and came to Santa Cruz to participate in UCSC’s Education Abroad Program. Lindsey not only fell in love with the city of Santa Cruz, but with a boyfriend Peter Chester, who is now her husband of 13 years.
Lindsey began her directing career as an assistant director for Kids on Broadway’s Godspell in 2001. She worked for them for three years working her way up to director, but as much as she appreciated the involvement with the children Kids on Broadway did not complement Lindsey directing style.
“The way it was organized and run, was not how I would have liked nor preferred a company for children to be run. It was governed by a board of parents. This can be a great thing, but many had alternative motives and wanted to govern the artistic vision.”
Her predisposition same time Lindsey receiving requests from parents in the community to form her own theater company.
She did it with the help of her husband, close friends and the parents of the community founded All About Theater, or AAT in 2003.
“Listening to what the community needed and being able to ask for help to create it gave me all I needed to form a company.”
Since then Lindsey has watched her company grow into the leading non-profit theater company in the area. She has poured her entire life into her company which she refers as her “brain child”, and has participated in every show that All About Theater put on.
Recently she has to take some time off the theater to raise her one year old baby girl, Olivia. She notes that balancing her life at the theater and at home has been her greatest struggle with AAT.
“I have two babies, two passions. I have a family here too.”
The way that Lindsey has transformed children’s theater in Santa Cruz is incredible. Her high expectations are high for both the children, and parents in the community; it is because of her challenges that these young actors can become the accomplished performers that she knows they can be. The productions created at All About Theater are great, but it is the friendships, the cooperation and devotion that bond the company together.
“Why people remember me and why they come back is because this continuous entity of family. I am a figure head of my company and I have worked really hard. I’ve put blood sweat and tears into my company you name it, but look at all these other people who also do that every day as well.”