What’s In My Stage Combat Bag?

What's In My Stage Combat Bag?

As I do more and more stage combat work, I’ve found that it’s super useful to have a bag or kit with my stage combat supplies in it, so I can grab it and get to rehearsals! As an independent artist with a lot of commitments on my plate (directing, teaching, writing and blogging, stage combat, just to name a few!), I don’t have time to be searching around for my supplies. This way I have everything I need, all in one handy place.

This is definitely not all my stage combat items (can’t fit swords in this bag, LOL!) but it has the basics that I use the most often. Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

The bag itself is a Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts (I promise that this post is not sponsored – yes I have a lot of Thirty-One products but I purchased them all myself because they’re functional AND pretty!). There are lots of pockets on the outside that I can toss my keys, phone, snacks or water bottle into, and not have to dig through the bag to find them quickly. I got the crossed arrows embroidered on the bag so I know it’s my stage combat bag, but it doesn’t scream to the world “I AM CARRYING A WHOLE BUNCH OF WEAPONS IN HERE.” I can also repurpose the bag later, should I need it for something else. If you look closely, you’ll see I have a Mjölnir (aka Thor’s hammer) keychain on the zipper.

In the bag itself are the following items:

  • A first aid kit (more details below)
  • A camouflage print Zipper Pouch for training knives
  • A dotted print Zipper Pouch for prop guns (bullet holes, get it?)
  • Two bandanas (for tying up hair, as a makeshift holster, to wipe up sweat, cleaning rags, or to use as a sling)
  • Extra socks (for sweaty feet)
  • Two sets of thick shoelaces in black and brown (I have used these to tie weapons to belts, as an emergency corset tie, to hold a pad on a wound, and as a shoelace. Go figure.)
  • An iPod (for filming/photographing choreography and for music for warm-ups)
  • A box of business cards
  • Two sets of bracers (leather wristbands) in black and brown, made for me by my mom’s friend, as well as some stage combat patches that will get sewn on my bag soon
  • Two scripts – Juvie (the last show I choreographed) and A Permanent Image (a show I’m working on in the fall)
  • A large notebook (for writing notes/choreography)

Let’s get into more details about the pouches in the bag. Here’s a closer look at what’s in my first aid pouch (from Weezi in London):

First Aid Pouch

  • Safety pins (easily accessed on the zipper)
  • A safe CPR kit
  • Lots of bandages
  • A battery operated book light (for someone who has been through multiple power outages during shows, I always like to have an extra little light source available)
  • Feminine supplies and wipes
  • BioFreeze (for sore muscles)
  • Facial tissues
  • Tweezers
  • Pens (two blue, one red)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Halls throat lozenges
  • Moleskin pads

This is a simple, homemade first aid kit, so clearly it doesn’t have EVERYTHING, but in a pinch, it’s useful! (And so far [knock on wood] I haven’t had to use it.)

Let’s take a peek into my gun pouch.

I have an assortment of prop guns, varying from nice metal replicas to crappy plastic dollar store cheapos. They all fit in the dotted pouch nicely. Since I work with youth a lot, I keep the orange tips visible on the guns, unless the director requests something more realistic looking. In that case, I have a little kit at home with different paints and markers that I can use to touch up the guns. (That might be another post for the future!) You can get in a lot of trouble for possessing weapons in public (even if they are fake) so that’s another reason why I keep the orange tips visible for as long as possible.

Here’s the contents of my knife pouch:

Knife Pouch

I currently have six Cold Steel trainers, which every actor I’ve ever worked with absolutely loves. I got these ones from Reliks. Before I got the trainers, I used cheap rubber daggers from McCulloch’s, which are still decent for the price ($4 each – you get what you pay for, so I reinforce them with Gorilla Tape), and I use them a lot with my younger or more inexperienced actors. However, the Cold Steel ones are everyone’s favourite, and they frequently got fought over so I’ve been slowly building up my collection.

I also currently have an oversized prop razor from The Conchologist in there. I haven’t used it since but it’s good to have and I’m sure I’ll get some use out of it in the future – maybe I’ll get to work on a production of Sweeney Todd or something.

Even with all those items in the bag, I still have space for a pair of sneakers and a change of clothes, as well as a water bottle and deodorant. I can also easily remove a pouch if I don’t need those specific weapons at the moment.

I have a few more items to add to my bag. I want to get a tensor bandage for the first aid kit, some small scissors, some hair ties, and a folder with printouts from Shrew’d Business (they are SO useful). I’m also going to have some resumes on hand, just in case.

While this isn’t every piece of stage combat equipment I have (believe me, my collection is growing quickly!), these are my most-used items, and I’ve found it so handy to have this kit available to grab and go. It makes me feel much more professional too. 😉

Do you have a stage combat bag? What do you keep in yours?
Do you have suggestions for what I should add to mine?
Share your tips with me on FacebookTwitter, or in the comments below!

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Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

This week’s Theatre Talk features Whitney Bolam, costume goddess and business babe! I met Whitney many years ago during a production of London Community Players’ Dark of the Moon. Since then, we have been in a number of shows together, and Whitney has grown her business, The Costume Shoppe, into a thriving London gem! Read on to find out more about this talented lady!

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Whitney Bolam and I am a costumer, a sewer (that’s sew-er) and the owner of The Costume Shoppe in London Ontario. I’m a Costume Designer for community theatre, a Wardrobe Maven for the London Community Players, and from time to time I can also be found on London’s community theatre stages as an actor.

A few years ago, I became involved with community theatre here in London, volunteering as makeup designer for an elementary school production of The Lion King. From there, I began auditioning for various shows, always volunteering to help with costumes along the way. Often times I have found myself pulling double duty, being onstage as an actor as well as working backstage on costumes.

Over the past six years I have costumed over twenty community theatre productions, assisting with many others as an assistant, a sewer and a dresser. I’ve done three seasons with Oakville Children’s Music Theatre, a small theatre company in Oakville Ontario, working as their Costume Designer and Head of Wardrobe, where I costumed up to six productions, or 190 children, at a time.

 

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

In 2012, I started a small business called The Costume Shoppe, where I rent and sell costume pieces and accessories for theatrical productions, photo shoots and special events, including Halloween. Using a combination of hand-crafted costume pieces together with purchased items, I personally work together with directors, designers, photographers and individuals to create their desired look. I have worked with a number of theatre companies, high schools, businesses and several individuals who have rented from my growing collection of period, vintage or vintage-inspired and fantasy costume pieces. Through The Costume Shoppe, I also welcome special orders for custom creations, for everything from superhero capes to fairy tale gowns, which can be custom ordered and purchased by request. I’m currently working with the London Children’s Museum, creating unique and easy-to-wear children’s costumes based on the themes of the museum’s various galleries.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

What made you want to do what you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I have always loved acting, dressing up and pretty much anything dramatic. From about the age of 12, whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say “an actor on Days of Our Lives,” but things changed once I went to university.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph in Theatre Studies, and it was during my time at Guelph that I fell in love with working backstage. Two instructors, who displayed such passion for their crafts, introduced me to the world of costuming, and I’ve never looked back. Paul Ord, the Technical Director and Jill Gill, the Costume Supervisor taught, challenged and inspired me for four years, and it’s because of them that I found a path that I never expected to find.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

Since graduating from university, I have volunteered as an actor and a costume designer with the London Community Players and other community theatre companies, where I have been very fortunate to work with some incredibly talented individuals. I am amazed by how much I’ve learned about what to do (and sometimes what not to do) simply through observing and being involved with theatre.

A few years ago I opened The Costume Shoppe as a source for specialty costume rentals, many of which are constructed my me personally. Since there are not many places from which to rent costume pieces in London, especially for theatrical productions, I decided to come up with a business plan where I could share the collection of costumes I had made over the years at reasonable rental prices. The Costume Shoppe has assisted with a number of theatrical productions, photo shoots, special events and even a music video. In just a short time, The Costume Shoppe has grown to also include custom creations, where a client can request a specific costume piece to purchase, rather than rent.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

Last year, I went back to school so I could expand on my knowledge of costuming. Technical Costume Studies is a graduate certificate program at Fanshawe College and over the next few years I will continue to study part-time as I learn new costuming skills such as pattern drafting, hat and jewelry making, fabric painting and dyeing as well as the aspects of working in professional theatre.

 

What has been your favourite past project/performance so far, and why?

I have a few…

The Three Musketeers: LCP produced this massive show in 2010, and no one wanted to take on the challenge of designing the costumes. The director put out a call for costumers, and because I was already involved with the show as an actor, I joined a small group of ladies, and we threw ourselves into 17th Century France, building dozens of doublets, gowns, jewelry, hats and tabards. After several months of meetings, fabric shopping, sewing and fittings, the show was ready for the stage and included over 350 costume pieces!

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

Antony & Cleopatra: In 2011, as my first solo design project, I took on the challenge of costuming one of Shakespeare’s longest plays. Drawing inspiration from Ancient Rome and Egypt, I designed and hand-crafted each costume piece from scratch, and I couldn’t have been happier with how beautifully everything came together.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

Edward II: The director for this production wanted the design concept to be “out of time,” which gave me an opportunity to try something very different from anything I’d done before, and from anything that had been seen on London’s community theatre stages. Designing the costumes as well as the makeup, I created a world of cyber-punk Goth, with a mash of blacks and silvers, leather, sequins and feathers, coloured hair extensions and lips, as well as intricate tattoos, which provided an effective backdrop for the tumultuous court of Edward II of England.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

[They Fight!]: Not only did I get to work with a fantastic team of costume designers to put together a collection of fight scenes for this unique Fringe production, but I also got to play Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, wielding an awesome knife, taking on my friend Kerry Hishon as Faith! This was definitely the best time I’ve ever had on stage.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

Do you have a “war story” from your performing/theatrical past that you’d be willing to share?

Costuming actors can be challenging at times. Sometimes actors only want to look pretty, which is difficult when they are playing a role which requires them to be anything but. Sometimes actors have very specific ideas of how they feel their character should be dressed and at times, will complain or fight to get their own way. Sometimes actors lie about their size, which I’ve never understood because the tape measure always tells the truth.

Working with kids has its challenges as well. They grow so quickly and unpredictably that measurements have to be taken not too long before costume construction begins, which can become a time management issue if there are a lot of costumes needing to be built, and one must keep in mind that alterations for kids are inevitable. Kids also have parents, many of whom are helpful and pleasant to deal with, but parents can be very protective of their children, and at times this can make the parents difficult to deal with.

As a Costume Designer, I have had good and bad experiences. Each production comes with a new challenge, but each new challenge gives me the chance to become better at what I do and to become more creative in finding solutions that help make the production a success.

 

What’s coming up next for you? Do you have a project on the go, or one coming up in the near future?

I’ve just finished costuming Steel Magnolias for the London Community Players, which will be onstage at The Palace Theatre, October 8 – 18, 2015. Tickets are available by calling 519.432.1029 or online at www.palacetheatre.ca.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

I will also be assisting with some sewing projects for LCP’s upcoming production of The Trials of Robin Hood, which goes onstage at The Palace Theatre, December 3-20, 2015.

Steel Magnolias will be my last costume design project for a while, as my husband and I are expecting a baby in February, and I will be taking some time off from theatre to focus on my family.

The Costume Shoppe will remain open until January 31, 2016 (unless this baby arrives early), and my plan is to close the shop for just a few months. The Costume Shoppe will re-open on September 1, 2016 in time for Halloween!

 

What are your goals for the future?

I love being my own boss, and I love the creativity that comes with being a costumer and the owner of a costume rental business. On any given day I can pull out some fabric and create an entirely new costume, whether at the request of the client or simply because I feel like it. But, I have also really enjoyed being back at school and learning how to make costume accessories, like hats and jewelry. Once I graduate from Fanshawe, I would like to find a position working for a professional theatre company in the Accessories Department. Since working in professional theatre is often seasonal, continuing to operate The Costume Shoppe on a part-time basis would give me the opportunity to continue along both career paths.

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

 

What words of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do and follow in your footsteps?

I’ve often said that I love what I do, because I do what I love.

Be brave; find what you love, what you’re passionate about and do that. Learn everything you can from everyone and everywhere you can, and become what you want to be. And remember that it’s never too late to change direction.

Be involved; volunteer with a local community theatre group, take sewing classes and find a good post-secondary school. There are lots of universities with excellent theatre programs, and there are some great colleges with specialized costuming programs that will not only teach you the technical skills of costuming, but will also help with networking and building contacts with professional theatre companies within Canada and around the world.

Be well-rounded; costuming has many sides, so learn to sew or improve upon the sewing skills you already have; build a portfolio of projects you’ve made; take a drawing class; study fashion history, world history and literature; take a class on the basics of business; get to know your fabrics; and most importantly, develop your social skills. As a costumer, you will encounter every type of personality there is!

Be a dreamer; one of my favourite quotes says, “There are no small parts, only small dreams and the theatre is no place for small dreams.” (Bigger Than the Sky, 2005)

Theatre Talk With Whitney Bolam, Costumer & Owner of The Costume Shoppe

Thank you so much for sharing, Whitney!

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Theatre Talk With Caitlin “Spinnabel Lee” Matanle, Circus Performer & Businesswoman

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

I met Caitlin Matanle, aka Spinnabel Lee, at the Blogcademy in Washington, DC last year. She and I hit it off right away with our shared love of theatre and performing! Not to mention, she has killer style — can you say spiderweb dress? Yes please!

Not only is she an amazing performer, but Caitlin is a badass business babe who runs her own entertainment company, a teacher, blogger, podcast host, festival director, and the list goes on and on! I don’t know how she does it! But now I’m going to turn it over to her… read on to find out more!

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Caitlin “Spinnabel Lee” Matanle, and I run (and perform for!) my Washington, DC-area contemporary circus and fire dancing company, Spinnabel Lee Entertainment LLC. Personally, I am a multi-prop fire performer, hula hoop dancer and multi-personality costumed character. I also contract stilt walkers, fire eaters and breathers, and additional entertainers for my company. I produce entertainment for a variety of public and private events (mostly for adults – think weddings, corporate events, and the like).

I do lots of other things, too! I teach private hula hoop dancing lessons, I am the assistant manager of online content for the Flow Arts Institute (an organization that furthers flow arts — performance arts such as hula hooping, poi, and other types of prop manipulations — experience and education around the world), and I am one of the directors for FLAME Festival (the Southeastern U.S.’s largest fire arts festival). I also work on the staff for The Jellyvision Show (a podcast for creative entrepreneurs) and as a co-host for Breaking Business Podcast (another business-centric podcast to be released this fall!).

Unrelated to show business, I moonlight as an interior design/feng shui writer for my blog Liberation Decor and am about to pursue a second career in the interior design industry. Yes, I am a multi-passionate creative! I love staying busy, even though my fiance says I over commit myself.

What made you want to do what you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I have always wanted to be in show business, even when I was a shy child convinced I would be on Broadway when I grew up. I did dance and theatre but stopped in high school. I was in a couple of college productions, but didn’t really give it much thought.

In 2006, I was traveling in Guatemala and went to a party where a few of the hosts spun fire poi for the guests. I was absolutely mesmerized and knew I had to learn. When I went home, I ordered a set of (ridiculously heavy and bruise-inducing) practice poi online and set out to find some instructional videos. The problem was, YouTube at the time was nowhere near the treasure trove of knowledge it is today — all I could find were a couple of hard-to-understand videos, and I quickly gave up.

A couple of years later, I saw an old friend at an out-of-town party, and she was learning poi herself. She taught me the basics, and I went home and continued to learn. At the time, I was in a new town with no friends, so I looked online to see if I could find another teacher. I found a hula hoop class starting up about an hour away and thought I might at least meet some like-minded people (even though I wasn’t very interested in hooping at the time). I drove there every week, quickly became obsessed, and linked up with a performance collective organized by the teacher. The rest is, more or less, history!

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

 

What has been your favourite past project/performance so far, and why?

I majored in sociology/anthropology in college, and I joke that I use that major (along with a healthy dose of psychology) every time I am part of an event. Hands down, the best part of my job as a performer is meeting all sorts of people and getting to observe their crazy social gatherings. I’m fascinated by new social groups. It would be impossible to pick a favourite! I’ve worked at events for celebrity lawyers, government folks, business tycoons and heirs, motorcycle clubs, haunted houses, large financial institutions… the list goes on! Probably the weirdest are the secretive unnamed “corporate events” I occasionally get contracted for — I don’t usually find out who the client is until I arrive. One was an offshore drilling convention!

Do you have a “war story” from your performing past that you’d be willing to share?

One time I failed to prepare my fire poi properly and the whole chain, handle, and hand (my own) holding it caught on fire. I had gross blisters, but surprisingly, no scars (I have them from much less severe burns, though!). It was my safety assistant’s first show, but they handled it with aplomb. I finished the act with a single poi before quickly heading to the nearest cold faucet!

What’s coming up next for you? Do you have a project on the go, or one coming up in the near future?

I am working on outsourcing more of my business (both in my office and performing in the field) to allow it to grow while freeing up my time to pursue new interests and endeavors. I recently started a second blog, Liberation Decor, which is all about intuitive interior design, feng shui, and rule breaking decorating. I plan to add services in the future!

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

What are your goals for the future?

I want to continue to grow Spinnabel Lee Entertainment, as well as eventually start my own practice as a feng shui interior design consultant. I plan on attending an online design school starting this winter to fill out my knowledge, and have secured a job to get started in the industry! I never want to feel confined to one job, passion, or industry.

What words of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do and follow in your footsteps?

Don’t quit your day job! I’m half-kidding… but really, any endeavor where you’re in business for yourself will require serious hustle — more than you can ever imagine. Entrepreneurship is truly not for the faint of heart.

If you do want a future in show business, make sure you always set goals and know where you are headed. Have a five-year plan. If you see yourself as part of a big touring show five years from now, your actions and decisions today will be completely different from those of someone who sees themselves running an entertainment company five years from now.

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

Where can we find you online?

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Caitlin!

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Linktastic – February 20, 2013

I am obsessed with this photo!  It's the Mean Girls of Edward II!Lord Pembroke (Claire Lawton), Lord Lancaster (me), Lord Warwick (Jessika McQueen)Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Rietdyk

I am obsessed with this photo! It’s the Mean Girls of Edward II!
Lord Pembroke (Claire Lawton), Lord Lancaster (me), Lord Warwick (Jessika McQueen)
Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Rietdyk

  • Ceris has written three articles for The Lovers, The Dreamers and You about theatre personnel: what makes the best producers, stage managers, and set designers.  I’m looking forward to reading more of this series!  We also recorded Podcast #11 on Monday with the LDT Online team — look for that one to come soon!
  • My amazing fighter-friend Amelia Rogocka (aka “Monkey”) writes a blog.  You should check it out, especially this article about her experience at the Art of Combat NYC Intensive and her longsword fight (which I fought with her!).
  • I have yet to work with Casey Hudecki, but I definitely want to!  Here’s her take on What does a Fight Sound Like?
  • An awesome article about Heidi Pascoe, an L.A. stuntwoman who specializes in huge falls and dives!
  • Via Bitter Gertrude: A Common Problem I See In Plays By Women Playwrights.  It’s Not What You Think.  More plays FOR women, written BY women… and not about women reacting to actions of men.  And here’s a response to this article: Theatre is activism, Playwrights are activists.
  • I was going to blog about this, but the Globe and Mail beat me to it: Does the standing ovation mean anything anymore?  Personally, it’s seeming more like a requirement rather than an accolade, and I’m really seeing this at the Stratford Festival.  I only stand if the show is worth standing for — or if I want to watch the curtain call but can’t see it because everyone else is already standing.
  • As an educator (albeit not in a school, but I still work with kids on a daily basis), I think this article is totally spot-on: 3 Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids… And How To Correct Them.  One of the comments really resonated with me as well: “I try to teach the parents the best way to handle these situations with the best outcome but they all tell me I wouldn’t understand because I don’t have my own kids.”  Most of the families I teach understand that I don’t have kids myself yet but they have never undermined me this way — yet I have friends who teach in schools who have had this experience.  How horrible for them.  I worry that someday, some of these pampered, spoiled kids will be running the country, and what will that country look like?!
  • Via Nubby Twiglet: The One Thing I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Blogging.  I’ve actually been blogging on this site since July 2010 (hard to be lieve!) and before that I was blogging at Diaryland and Xanga.  I was not one of the cool people with a Livejournal.  It’s so interesting to see how blogs have changed over the years.  My biggest piece of advice?  KEEP BLOGGING.
  • And if you are stuck: Get Out the Jumper Cables!  Ways to break writer’s block!
  • Via Loosen Your White Collar: 3 Things Never to Tell Your Boss.
I am obsessed with Grumpy Cat.  Have a great day!

I am obsessed with Grumpy Cat.
Have a great day!

How to put on a coffeehouse in 7 easy steps (or, An “OK” Coffeehouse recap)

This is one of the logos that came up when I did a Google search for "coffeehouse logo."Advice: get a graphic designer to make you a custom logo!

This is one of the logos that came up when I did a Google search for “coffeehouse logo.”
Advice: get a graphic designer to make you a custom logo!

1.  Talk about maybe doing a coffeehouse… for about a year.
(Art Fidler and I had first discussed the idea of having a variety or talent show at OKTC way back in 2011.  Took this long to actually make it happen!)

2.  Choose a date.
(We finally decided on Saturday, January 26, 2013.)

3.  Get a team to help you.
(Got a team of some amazing Original Kids to help plan the event.  We decided on prices, max number of participants, how we wanted the show to run, and the name: An “OK” Coffeehouse.  The kids decided that the proceeds from the show would go to the OKTC fundraising effort to rebuild the theatre balcony.)

4.  Recruit performers.
(Sent out an email to the company for Original Kids who wanted to perform.  We had to extend the due date a few times.  Always be willing to accept latecomers.)

5.  Have an initial meeting.
(We arranged for the planning committee and performers to have a meeting where the performers would show off their acts and the planning committee would select which performers would end up in the coffeehouse.  We had a multitude of amazing acts, including improv, mime, and a variety of singers, many accompanying themselves.  In the end, we took all of them.)

6.  Have a dress rehearsal.
(I am very thankful that our tech director, Joe, was able to attend our dress rehearsal.  I didn’t even think about microphones and sound mixing… although seeing as most of the performers were singing, I probably should have.  What do I know?)

7.  On with the show!
(Just before the show, we practiced our big group finale, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Spamalot.  Nice little preview for our upcoming production.  We did a “pass-the-hat-and-boot” at the end of the night and raised $177!)

Extra Credit:

  • Find someone with Photoshop skills who can make you a personalized logo and/or poster.
  • During dress rehearsal, first start with a cue-to-cue of all tech needs.  Then do a full run-through of the show.
  • Next time, I think I’d schedule the performance at a time when the high school students aren’t in exams.
  • Make sure to get someone to take pictures, since you’ll be too busy being amazingly proud of your team!

(Special thanks to the amazing Original Kids planning committee and performers, Joe Recchia, Art Fidler, and the OKTC box office team!)