Fall 2014 at OKTC will be a GRAND ADVENTURE!

Fall 2014 at OKTC will be a GRAND ADVENTURE!

It’s that time again!  The Fall 2014 season at Original Kids Theatre Company was just released yesterday, and it will prove to be a GRAND ADVENTURE indeed!  We have nine incredible productions to be performed by our Main Cast Company, and I know our actors cannot wait to get started rehearsing in September.

I am thrilled to finally announce the show I will be directing at OKTC this fall…

Fall 2014 at OKTC will be a GRAND ADVENTURE!

THE WEDDING SINGER!!!  EEEEEEE!!!

I am so, so, so excited to be working on this show.  I’m obsessed with The Wedding Singer.  I mentioned back in November that The Wedding Singer was one of the shows on my “want-to-direct” list, and I also posted a video of the Broadway production’s performance at Tony Awards on my wedding day (secretly hoping someone would show up at my wedding and start singing “It’s Your Wedding Day” as a flashmob!).  The show is funny, sweet, silly and just all-around a great story.  I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for months, and it has been torture not being able to talk about it!

Phil Hallman is the musical director, and Lindsey Runhart is the choreographer.  I have never worked with either of these talented individuals before, but having seen their work onstage, I know this show is going to ROCK!

Here’s the 411 on this totally awesome musical:

The Wedding Singer

Playing at the Spriet Family Theatre, December 4-7, 2014

Music by Matthew Sklar
B
ook by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Based on the New Line Cinema film written by Tim Herlihy and starring Adam Sandler 

“Be our specially invited guests at The Wedding Singer, a nostalgic, funny and romantic trip back to 1985 when hair was big, greed was good, and a wedding singer might just be the coolest guy ever. Rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart is New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer and the life of the party, until his own fiancé dumps him. Shot through the heart, Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own, until he meets Julia the girl of his dreams, but engaged to a big-deal financier. Youll all love this rocking hit show, a perfect Broadway challenge for our senior musical-comedy performers and based on the ever-popular film favourite starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore!”

(Rated PG. 2hrs. #OKWeddingSinger). 

I’m also excited to announce that OKTC will be presenting a very special Christmas project this year…

Fall 2014 at OKTC will be a GRAND ADVENTURE!

The OKTC staff will be presenting A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS for two performances only, December 13 & 14!  I’m thinking this might be an OKTC first!  I know the Original Kids have been bugging us to do a special staff show, and we’re finally going to do it!  And proceeds from this very limited engagement production go to a very special cause — read on!

A Charlie Brown Christmas 

Playing at the Spriet Family Theatre, December 13 & 14, 2014

By Charles M. Schultz
Based upon the television special by Bill Melendez & Lee Mendelson
Stage Adaptation by Eric Schaeffer
By Special Arrangement with Arthur Whitelaw and Ruby Persson   

Everyones favourite television holiday special is brought to life on the OKTC stage featuring our staff, alumni and special guests! Two performances only! These performances will raise funds to help send underprivileged kids to our school performances and help schools who are constrained by bussing costs. 

Tickets go on sale for the OKTC Fall 2014 season on September 20th at 12 PM!  Mark that date down on your calendars and get ready to join us on THE GRAND ADVENTURE!

What I’ve Learned: Through the Looking Glass Edition

What I've Learned: Through the Looking Glass Edition

Through the Looking Glass closed a little over a week and a half ago, and it’s been really strange not being at the theatre 24/7.  August has been fairly quiet so far (despite the fact that now that I’m not working on a show, all my friends and family want to hang out ALL AT ONCE).  When I look back on 2014 so far, I realize just how much I’ve had on my plate.  I went from Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. to Mrs. Ballyshannon to TTLG to Macbeth to Port Stanley Festival Theatre Camp, all back-to-back-to-back.  And this is after taking a self-imposed break for the fall of 2013 to spend some more time with my husband.  (I can’t believe that next month we’ll have been married for a whole year.  A WHOLE YEAR.  Where did the time go?!)

So the first thing I’ve learned from these last 7 months?  IT’S OK TO TAKE A BREAK!!!

That being said, the Fall 2014 season at Original Kids is going to be announced tomorrow (YAY!), and I have another project in the works that I’ll be starting on Sunday… so perhaps I really haven’t learned anything at all…

But, let’s try anyway:

  • As always, I’ve been continuing to build off of What I’ve Learned: Peter Pan Edition and What I’ve Learned: Little Mermaid Edition.  I love working with kids, and the more I do it, the more I grow in my own confidence and skills.
  • Try to keep your cool in stressful situations, like when there’s a power outage.  Remember that some things are beyond your control, and do your best to present a positive attitude (even if you’re freaking out inside).  When you are a leader, it’s up to you to set the mood and tone.  Your actors will react based upon your reaction.
  • It’s important to create a safe environment during your rehearsals, so your actors feel comfortable taking risks and pushing themselves out of the comfort zone.  Art Fidler gave me a wonderful compliment after seeing the show: “Your actors were fearless, and I especially loved seeing the girls being comediennes!”  Be fearless and take risks as a director.  Embrace the weird.  Again, your actors will follow your lead.
  • Let your actors play during rehearsals.  Let them try different ways of performing a scene, a line, a reaction.  Actors often have wonderful ideas that you never would have thought of — let them share their ideas, and then you can shape and mold those ideas into an amazing whole.
  • Allow and embrace mistakes.  One of the funniest moments in the show was when Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were spinning around the balcony support rails and both said at the same time, “You ARE in a dream right now!”  That moment came out of a mistake in the rehearsal process — only one of the Tweedles was supposed to say that line, but they both said it at the same time, because they knew each others’ lines (as young actors tend to do).  It turned out to be a wonderful mistake, and I immediately said, “KEEP IT!!!”  That moment got laughs and applause every performance!
  • Look beyond the literal, and again, push your boundaries and take risks with your show.  It would have been very easy to put Alice in a pinafore and pouffy dress and have everything be proper and British, but that’s what everyone expects when it comes to Alice shows.  I decided that I wanted to make this production fun and modern.  In this version of TTLG, Alice is supposed to be playing chess with her pet cat.  I switched it up and our Alice played online chess on her laptop and spoke to her friend “Kitty” on a gaming headset.  She wore a blue sleeveless top and white shorts layered over funky leggings, which I wanted to be a Disneybound-style homage to Alice.  As well, our Humpty Dumpty got a radical makeover.  My H.D. was played by a young lady, who asked me early in the process if she had to wear a fat suit or egg costume.  It’s bad enough when a girl has to play a boy role (pretty common in youth theatre, but still…) but I had a plan!  H.D. had a country-style song, so she was changed into “Miss Humpty Dumpty,” a Taylor Swift-esque diva wearing a cute white dress, white vest, and gold belt — reminiscent of a sunny-side-up egg — with a silver and gold bedazzled microphone.  My actress loved her costume and felt comfortable, she looked fabulous and gave a fantastic performance.

I’m sure there’s a bunch more thoughts that I’m missing, but for now I’ll leave you with this little video of some fun moments during the rehearsal process:

Alice’s Adventures in Power Outage-land

Alice's Adventures in Power Outage-land

An incredible team.
Photo Credit: Matthew Atkins

Circle round, people.  This is going to be a long one.  It’s time for epic storytelling with Kerry!

Sunday, August 3 was the closing show of OKTC’s Through the Looking Glass.  Our closing show was scheduled for 11 am — an unusual time, but that’s the way it works when you’ve got two shows playing in repertory!

I woke up fairly early that morning in anticipation of an amazing closing show, and (per usual) checked Facebook and Twitter during breakfast, where I noticed this tweet — a fire had occurred on York Street, and many of the residents in that area were without power.  That set off an alarm in my mind — the Spriet Family Theatre is two blocks over from York Street, and who knows what might have been affected?  There was definitely a possibility we might be without power, which means no lights or sound for the show.  But it’s not the first time I’ve had a show go on without power.  I jumped in the car and drove over to the theatre.

York Street was closed off, so I had to take a detour around to get to the theatre, where I saw my stage manager/assistant director, Shae, waiting outside of the Covent Garden Market (where our theatre is located).  Another market vendor was also waiting outside and told me that I couldn’t get into the underground parking, because there was no power to lift the arm of the parking machine, and all the lights were out and it was pitch black.  Then Shae told me that the entire building was locked.

I anticipated possibly having to perform without lights and sound.  I didn’t anticipate not being able to get into the building at all.

So I found some street parking and had to go into happy-smiley-brave-face mode.  After all, I had 18 kids about to show up, and we had a show to do.

As the kids showed up, we sent them and their parents over to the front of the Market where the picnic tables are located.  They were all pretty confused and I’m sure a few of them were upset.  Who could blame them?  This was their final performance of TTLG, and for 13 of the 18 kids, this was their first production at OKTC!  But they definitely kept brave faces on and sat around and chatted with each other, while I got on the phone and tried to contact anyone and everyone who could possibly help.  We got news from Market security that the Market would be closed for the day, and London Hydro said that power probably wouldn’t be restored until noon at the earliest.

Ok then.

Onto Facebook and Twitter to let the OKTC community know that the show would be delayed.  On the phone to Hannah, the director of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, to let her know that her show would also probably be delayed.  Texting with Joe and Jeff to get advice about what to do about our show.  Giving positive speeches to the kiddos and the parents and random people trying to get into the market.  Staying calm.  Because when it boiled right down to it, there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.

So, what to do?  Wait?  Postpone?  Cancel?  That was a call I really didn’t want to make.  I didn’t want the kids to lose out on their closing show.  Lots of friends were coming to see the show on its closing.  To make it even worse, one of our amazing backstage volunteers hadn’t even seen the show yet — she had been helping backstage for the entire run, and was planning on seeing the closing show, which was also her daughter’s last time performing in the lead role of Alice.

Luckily, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I made the decision that if there was no power by 12 noon, that we would perform outdoors, right there in front of the Market.  At that point, everyone really came together and stepped up to help out.  The OKTC executive director, Jeff, basically gave me free reign to run the show any way I could.  Our camp director, Will, and Andrew Rethazi (one of our OKTC director/musical directors) drove out to CampOK and got us a battery operated boom box so we could have music.  Market security let us into the Market to get our show CD and as many costumes and props as we could grab.  So I left my musical director Matt, ASM Shannon, and sound operator Cole outside with the kids, and the OKTC production manager Joe and I took a small group of senior Original Kids upstairs with us to haul costumes and props.

Then, at 11:45 am, it happened…

THE POWER CAME BACK ON!!!

Shae, Carrie, Grace and I started screaming.  The girls ran downstairs and told the cast, and they started screaming.  We got permission from Market security to re-enter the building, and brought all the kids upstairs.  Joe and Cole went into tech-mode and made sure everything was working in the theatre, and Carrie and Natalie went into box office-mode and made sure everything was working in the box office.  We got the go ahead that the theatre was working well and everything was safe, and we went into show-mode!  Mics on, costumes on, props set, game faces on.

The show went on at 12:45 — an hour and 45 minutes delayed, but so full of energy and enthusiasm.  We still had a packed audience, and they were so wonderful and appreciative of the kids and their work.  The show went off without a hitch, the 2 pm Alice show was only delayed by one hour, and the 7 pm Alice show went on as scheduled.  We had a lovely cast pool party/BBQ after the show, which was really great for taking the edge off.

I fully admit that I had a little cry while the kids were getting into mics. I was mentally exhausted by that point, and my emotions were all over the place.  It’s hard to be the calm in the middle of the storm.  I knew that my attitude would influence the kids, so I put on a positive face.  And really, truly, there was nothing we could have done differently.  The power outage was totally out of our hands, and in that case, panicking or getting upset wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

So… how do you deal with a power outage?

  • Stay calm.
  • Stay safe.
  • Stay positive.
  • Ask for help.
  • Figure out a backup plan (perform outside, do a staged reading, postpone until a later time/date).
  • Thank everyone.

So THANK YOU to everyone — the TTLG cast, crew and volunteer team, the OKTC staff, the CampOK staff, the Covent Garden Market staff and security team, the audiences who came out to see Looking Glass, and London Hydro for getting the power back on!  This was certainly an experience that I will never forget.

Linktastic – July 31, 2014

Linktastic - July 31, 2014

“As a parent, your first instinct is to protect and defend.  If you feel your kid is being wronged or a situation is unfair, you want to lash out and hurt those who would dare bring harm to your kid.  It’s natural instinct.  That being said, it is important to always take a step back and put things into perspective.  You need to understand that your actions will have consequences and those consequences affect you as well as your kid, and others.”

  • Continuing with the Seth Rudetsky awesomeness, here is Seth with David Hibbard, who transforms into the Rum Tum Tugger from Cats in less than 6 minutes!  (Is it just me or does David Hibbard sound a LOT like Norbert Leo Butz?)

Photo Credit: Malcolm Miller

Survive or Thrive: Three Things to Consider Before Sending Your Kid to Theatre Camp

Survive or Thrive: Three Things to Consider Before Sending Your Kid to Theatre Camp

Backstage at OKTC’s Through the Looking Glass — these girls and I have spent a huge chunk of our summer together!

“I’M BORED!”

The two most terrifying words a parent can hear… especially right in the thick of the summer.

Perhaps you think it’s way overdue for your child to have a new experience… or perhaps you just need a break from your kiddo for a while this summer.  And your kid likes acting, don’t they?  Perhaps they have a “dramatic” side to them, or are always pretending to be someone else.  Well then, theatre camp must be the perfect place for them!

But before you whip out the credit card and sign the registration forms, please take the following three tips into account!

1)  Make sure your child knows what he/she is getting into.

First and foremost — does your child actually WANT to go to theatre camp?  Have they ever expressed any interest in acting, theatre, or drama?  And please don’t give me the “My child is SO DRAMATIC” line.  Theatre camp is not the place to send your seven-going-on-seventeen diva.  If your child has a genuine interest in acting or theatre, then go ahead and sign them up.  But please, no divas.  We don’t want to deal with them.  And just because YOU want your kid to go to camp or be an actor, doesn’t mean that your child has any aspirations of being on the stage.

ALSO:  Please TELL your child you’re signing them up for camp before they go.  It’s no fun for your kid to discover that morning that they’re being shipped off to camp.  At best, they’ll be nervous and anxious; at worst, they’ll feel like you’re abandoning them.  Think about the equivalent: it’d be like your kids turning around and putting you in a nursing home without your consent.

This is true of any camp, but especially so in theatre — which is such a collaborative medium — one miserable kid can totally ruin everyone else’s camp experience.  While it is important for kids to try new things and have new experiences, you shouldn’t have to force a kid to go to camp — they should want to go of their own accord.

Survive or Thrive: Three Things to Consider Before Sending Your Kid to Theatre Camp

2)  Make sure YOU know what you’re getting your child into.

It boggles my mind how often parents either forget or just plain don’t know what they’ve signed up their kids for!  Make sure to spend some time doing some research about what kind of camp experience you’re looking for.

Some things to consider include:

  • Length/duration of the camp (Full days?  Half days?  One week?  Two weeks?)
  • Day camp vs. overnight camp
  • Local vs. out of town
  • Type of programming (regular “camp” experience vs. intensive theatrical training program vs. summer performance company)
  • Cost of the camp

And once you register your child, PLEASE be sure to write down and/or print out all relevant information/confirmation/receipts that are available!

Survive or Thrive: Three Things to Consider Before Sending Your Kid to Theatre Camp

3)  Make sure your child is truly ready for camp.

I’m not sure why this is, but so many parents seem to want to push their kid ahead and register them in a camp before they are ready or old enough for the camp.  Camp age restrictions are not chosen arbitrarily, and they are not there to exclude your child.  Plays and musicals require the use of scripts, and if your child cannot read or has difficulty reading, they’re probably going to have a tough time at theatre camp.

And if your child is clearly the youngest person in their group, they may have trouble fitting in.  They might have difficulty keeping up with the activities (such as learning choreography at a faster pace than they’re used to); they may not be able to sit still or pay attention for as long as the rest of the group; or they may have difficulty making friends with the older kids, who may not want to hang out with someone much younger than them.

ALSO:  If your child is shy, or has a medical concern or a special need, please be sure to share this with your child’s counsellor.  This is not to single your child out.  It’s to ensure that your child’s counsellor is equipped with all the information they have to help make your child’s camp experience the best it can be.  Camp staff are trained specifically to ensure your child’s privacy and confidentiality will be respected, and if they are armed with this important information, it will only help your child thrive at camp.

What are some important factors that you consider before sending your kid to camp?  Do you have any tips for people who are thinking about sending their kid to camp?  Share your thoughts in the comments!