By Dee Ford Byas
For the past four months, Cescily Washington Wiener has taken on the role of Herberger Theater’s director of community engagement as she lets people know the Arizona Young Artist Competition is holding auditions for its 22nd year, from Feb. 21-24, and final competition on Saturday, Feb. 26.
Washington Wiener, 45, oversees outreach and art education programs at the Herberger Theater Center, such as First Friday Live, Festival of the Arts, Lunch Time Theater, Performance Pop-Ups, and Youth Arts programming, which includes the Arizona Young Artists’ Competition, Wolf Trap, and more.
“This competition is hosted by the Herberger Theater. It provides high school and college students with the opportunity to compete in front of a panel of highly esteemed judges, to display their talents in acting, classical vocals, musical theatre vocals, and dance for the chance to win $1,500,” said Washington Wiener, who has toured extensively in the U.S. and abroad. “I’m so very happy to return to the Valley of the Sun, to continue my life’s work to lead several art initiatives and forge artistic life changing pathways for the youth in Arizona. Simply put, the arts saves lives!”
Washington Wiener invites those interested in taking advantage of the opportunity to choose an audition time. Registration online is at herbergertheater.org/ayac, and applications are accepted through Sunday, Feb. 13 (early registration has ended).
Before filling a director’s role at Herberger, she directed the Dance Academy at Chicago Lights serving students in Chicago public and parochial schools. She supported under performing schools in Chicago to integrate arts education with the core subjects through the not-profit she founded in 2011, CW Arts Consulting Inc.
She has performed in and choreographed on/off Broadway shows such as Ragtime and Back to Broadway, starring actor TC Carson. Her background entails working with well known recording artists, movie and television actors, and civil rights activists, she said, adding she even taught for the Joffrey Ballet Community Engagement program, River North Dance Education program and Forward Momentum. She also performs in theatre productions and choreographs debutante balls and socialite events.
Although a new face at Herberger, Washington Wiener is not new to the area as she represented Arizona in dance at the National NAACP ACT-SO twice and was a Martin Luther King performing arts scholarship recipient for the city of Phoenix from 1991-1994, performing several times on the Herberger Theater Center stage.
“Talk about a full circle,” she said, sharing biographical details below about herself with the Arizona Informant.
Arizona native, if not, where are you originally from?
Born in Orlando, Fla., but relocated to Ahwatukee, Ariz., from Memphis, Tenn., in 1990. I attended South Mountain High School Performing Arts Magnet Program. I recently returned to Arizona to oversee my father’s health, Deacon Ellis Washington of First Institutional Baptist Church, as he is fighting Lewy Body Dementia.
What does your family consist of, ie: spouse, children, pets, etc.?
My husband, Matthew, and a fur baby, American pit bull named Kodak Brown. When people ask if I have children, my answer is ‘Yes, I have over 50,000 children.’ A majority of my students came to me with raw talent, and after learning foundational techniques, French language, and several 21st century skills, many of them are doing great things. I have students who are attending universities abroad, pursuing] master’s degrees in dance education, and auditioning for Broadway musicals. I’m a very proud Mama Bear and I look forward to working with the young people in AZ!
What did you do before?
Extensive experience as a performer, instructor, and arts administrator; taught visual art classes on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona; performed, studied, and held an apprenticeship with Philadanco, Alvin Ailey, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballethnic, Deeply Rooted Dance Company, The Black Ensemble Theatre, Bailiwick Theatre, Dusable Museum, Chicago Fine Arts Building and Light Opera Works in Evanston.
What message do you have for youths?
Young people take your arts learning to another level and come learn from the very best artistic professionals at Herberger Theater. The HTC youth education programs are designed to give Arizona children opportunities to excel, learn and heal through their experience with the arts.
What does Black History Month mean to you and its importance?
For me, Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of atrocities to spotlight Black achievement and excellence. The importance is a continued engagement as it helps give context for the present.