Story Theatre’s Off the Shelf is part of Kaleidoscope’s Family Theatre Festival. Photo contributed

ART SMARTS: Kaleidoscope Theatre serving young audiences

Janis La Couvee looks at the children’s theatre scene around Victoria

Victoria has a burgeoning theatre scene with professional, alternative and community theatres producing work from the classics to the most modern fare. Young audiences are well served too.

Kaleidoscope Theatre was founded in 1974; since that time the theatre has created, commissioned and produced more than 100 original plays or original adaptations for young audiences. Kaleidoscope operates as a ‘full-service theatre’ with resident productions, tours, outreach activities and a theatre school under artistic director Roderick Glanville.

“I started as an actor in TYA (theatre for young audiences) and I saw what magic you can create when you bring relevant stories to that age group” he says.

Since 1981, Story Theatre has been bringing vibrant, educational theatre to elementary school audiences and their families across Canada, touring from coast to coast to coast. The current artistic director is David McPherson, who recently took over when founder Jim Leard retired.

For McPherson, the biggest misconception about the work is that “it’s a lesser important theatre genre, one that is silly and unimportant. We spend time explaining our part in the ecosystem, even with young artists,” he states.

Kaleidoscope’s sixth annual Family Theatre Festival is scheduled for June 9 and 10 at the Belfry Theatre, then travels for the first time to the West Shore on June 16.

The company is premiering a new work by Glanville, When the Sun Crosses the Line. Touching, loving and historical, it does not shy away from some tough questions.

“I feel it’s important for us to understand the complex issues of what reconciliation really means to those that may be afraid to ask,” he explains. “Knowing our history changes our future. In our play, June, a 13-year-old girl, asks those though questions that are often the elephant in the room.”

Kaleidoscope will be joined by Story Theatre, with Off the Shelf, Star Star Theatre with Raccoonaissance and Bonnie Duncan, with her work, Squirrel Stole My Underpants! There will be activities in Fernwood Square, food trucks and free performances by Cam & Daisy.

Later this summer, the Chemainus Theatre Festival remounts Glanville’s adaptation of The Little Prince as part of their KidsPlay series.

Look also for Story Theatre Company at Theatre SKAM’s SKAMpede July 13 to 15 and in local libraries over the summer.

The Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival (Aug. 22 to Sept. 2) offers family-friendly shows depending on the year – since it’s a lottery system there is no guarantee – as do Victoria Operatic Society and Four Seasons Musical Theatre.

Kaleidscope’s 2018-19 season includes The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Pippi Longstocking the Musical for the winter holiday season, and in the spring, The Giver.

As employers, Kaleidoscope and Story Theatre are committed to growing the local talent pool of actors, often hiring from among the alumni of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and the University of Victoria theatre program.

Theatre for young audiences can have a profound impact in young people’s lives, creating a sense of community and belonging. Even in an ever-increasingly digital world, a well-told story has the power to capture the imagination. McPherson is adamant “in over 35 years of touring, things haven’t changed. Kids are still interested in seeing us perform.”

In July I’ll explore the performance and training opportunities offered to children and teens.

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