When kids play in a sandbox, they come together to build a castle, knock it down and then start over.
They may not even know each other, or be friends, but they have a goal to build something together.
That was Jason Summers’ vision when he started the Mamaroneck-based Westchester Sandbox Theatre.
For those involved in the theater, strangers can come together, perform a play and then start working on a new one.
Perhaps that philosophy is what’s kept the theater group alive and thriving for the last decade.
“The vision has stayed steadfast, and I think that’s why we’re still here,” Summers said.
WST began on East Boston Post Road in a 60-seat theater. Summers said just 20 to 30 people were involved in the first production.
Now, more than 200 young thespians take to the stage in 15 to 18 shows year-round and Summer said the theater has made a real connection to the community.
In addition to running a theater program in-house, Summers said the theater works with elementary schools in the area, such as Greenacres and Quaker Ridge schools in Scarsdale, as well as schools in Rye and Larchmont, putting on student-centered plays.
Summers is one of the founders, though it’s hardly his first time working in theater.
A graduate of New York University’s theater department, Summers got his start directing professional plays but was also involved with school plays. Professional work, for him, wasn’t enough. When the opportunity arose to build this young troupe, he jumped at the chance.
“I like to think of this as my way of giving back,” he said.
Summers said the Sandbox Theatre approach to acting is a form of team building and provides education through entertainment and arts.
“I think that’s why we’re such a great match for schools,” he said. “We want students to have a really great confidence-building experience.”
A decade of running Sandbox has given Summers new skills, too. While he already had a passion for and experience in theater, he had to learn the ropes of the business world.
“Learning about how to run and manage the business,” he said, “we have learned how to learn from the mistakes we’ve made and the stumbles we’ve done and [then] make it better.”
Summers said another important lesson learned is to know when it’s time to move on to another project.
“Don’t get stuck just because you had a brainstorm once,” he said. “Sometimes you need to know when to walk away.”
Summers said he can be a perfectionist, and there are times he needed to learn to roll with the challenges and accept the outcome.
“I had to learn how to let things happen and be okay with ... a little unrest, a little chaos, or not being sure with what’s going to happen,” he said. “If you work through it, you’ll come out the other end and it’ll be okay.”
Now that the theater has hit year 10, Summers said he’s willing to overlap the shows and do several things at once.
While the shows performed in-house will have six weeks of practice, Summers said some school shows have time for only 10 days of rehearsal.
“We learn to work with all kinds of schedules,” he said.
Sandbox Theatre will celebrate it 10-year anniversary Sept. 29 and 30 at the JCC of Mid-Westchester. Young actors involved in the theater now and Sandbox alumni will come together for two special performances, with a silent auction to benefit the troupe and a reception after the second performance.
With 10 years under his belt, Summers said he’s looking forward to the next decade. He hopes to see the theater group serve kids with special needs and to expand the programs into Connecticut or Long Island.
“I think a lot can be done in 10 years,” he said.
And, while times change, the magic of theater remains the same.
“As we get more into the tech age, theater has created more magic,” Summers said. “I think the magic of theater is more vital … we’re falling into this void of technology, [but] theater takes you out of that isolation and puts you with people.”