By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
For more than two decades, Original Kids Theatre Company has been helping grow the confidence and ability of those hoping to take their love of the stage to the next level.
Now, as the company prepares for the main section of its 22nd season, one of those kids has returned to help lead the way for the city’s next generation of theatre-lovers. Andrew Tribe, who left Original Kids back in 2006, has returned to the company, serving as interim artistic director.
As the company prepares to launch its “big three” productions — starting with next month’s Ruddigore (by Gilbert and Sullivan) and followed by the Sound of Music and the Tribe-directed How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — the man who first acted for the company in 1998 says he is looking forward to taking over the reigns at Original Kids. And with his acting background in the company, along with schooling in Toronto and at Western University, Tribe said he is ready to continue not only the company’s traditions, but his own as well.
“I decided to take on this position because we are coming to a time, after 22 years, because it is the first time someone who was an Original Kid can take on a major leadership role,” Tribe said. “I have kind of done the company in various capacities, running the spotlight, the lights, stage managing and everything in between. An awareness of what everyone does is so important. You understand what it means to the kid coming in to run the spotlight.”
Actually, Tribe knows that job too, but he also understands what it means to be a member of Original Kids, whose main membership includes young people from age eight up until their high school graduation. The company’s tradition, Tribe said, is not to find the kid who demands the spotlight, but rather the one who wants to use theatre to make themselves a better person.
“It isn’t just promoting theatrical and artistic skills, but promoting a lot of really good social skills that are very important,” Tribe said. “I think the company embodies that. I think the kids come out of our program with just that bit higher level of sophistication. If you are just here for that spotlight role or a pay cheque, then you aren’t here for the right reason.”
Tribe’s eight years as an Original Kid — along with experience he gained volunteering in the company’s summer camp program and some directing jobs during his university days — are impressive, but pale next to that of Art Fidler.
Fidler, whose name is above the door of the Original Kids rehearsal space at the Covent Garden Market, has been a part of the company for all 22 years.
Currently the company’s marketing director special projects, Fidler said he has been waiting a long time for Original Kids to mature to the point where a former participant could take on a leadership role.
“Theatre is always about the circle. There is the rehearsal when it comes around to the audience and the production connects and that is a closing of the circle,” Fidler said. “So when a kid comes around and takes over, that is closing another circle. So the old 73-year-old lasted long enough to happen and it turned out to be Tribe.”
The company has some 330 members taking part in everything from the Original Kids junior and main season playbill, acting classes, summer camp and the Original Kidlets program for 5-8 year olds.
For Fidler, who turns 73 next month, the opportunity to work with the young people in Original Kids is what not only keeps him young at heart, but also excited for the future.
“I can’t think of any place, other than my home with my family, than coming down and being here. When I am here I am with people like Andrew who I have known since he was 10 years old. That’s a pretty special thing,” Fidler said. “A motto I made up a long time ago is, ‘Once an Original Kid, always an Original Kid.’ That if at any time you were a part of this company, you are always, at heart, a part of the company.”
That feeling is one both Fidler and Tribe agree comes from a certain kind of performer. That kid, Tribe said, isn’t the one who always hits the high notes, but wants to be part of the company to expand “their confidence, imagination and creativity through the arts.”
Fidler agreed, adding an Original Kid is someone who can handle two or three rehearsals, two or three hours per week, who is comfortable in the ensemble and is takes joy in the process rather than seeking rewards.
“They are the kind of kids who are the spine of a company; they are the ones who hold the company together,” Fidler said. “They aren’t the showiest, they don’t hit all the right notes, we are more interested in good kids who work hard and are able to work well with others.”
For more information about Original Kids, along with dates and ticket information for upcoming shows, visit www.oktc.ca.
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