11th Street Kids' Theatre - SHAZAM
By Rosemary Phillips, May 2012
with the children of 11th Street Kids' Theatre
It was just a simple kidsí show Ė but what a show! For 19 years Jean Pinto and Liz Mason of Grand Forks (BC, Canada) have been inspiring kids to enjoy music and theatre through their local productions. Jean writes the original shows that include all her music students while Liz plays the piano and directs the music.
When they began creating the shows Jean and Liz lived in a wonderful big old house on 11th Street - and so the company name, 11th Street Kidsí Theatre. As a neighbour (ten years ago) I saw youngsters come and go for lessons and rehearsals during the winter season for the shows being performed on the stage in the Grand Forks Secondary School Auditorium. In the summer I listened to rehearsals in their back garden where the stage was set amongst the flower beds and under the huge maple tree. Those children have grown up and headed out on their own to raise families and/or take up careers, and some have even been bitten by the bug and ventured into music and theatre.
Themes have varied over the years from fairy tales to television shows and movies. The show this past week Ė Shazam - was inspired when Jean found her Aunt Ruthís Canadian Air Force uniform from World War II. Jean wrote a story about a young girl who believed her grandmother was really Wonder Woman. Of course her family didnít believe her... Just about all the comic super heroes and villains came to life, from Cat Woman, Batman and Spider Man to Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Solomon Grundy, the Joker and Wonder Woman herself. All in all there were 32 characters played by children ranging in age from five to 13. Funny thing is they all look so grown-up on the stage, even though some of them are just over my waist-height. Put the children into costume, make-up and character and they transform before our very eyes!
To summarize, two young sisters (played by Erika and Fairyn Burroughs) were left alone by their big sister and babysitter. They partnered up with friends to pull super heroes out of another dimension. But, things didnít go quite as planned. Instead of conjuring up Wonder Woman they got Solomon Grundy (Silas Lawrence), the Riddler (Dante Grootjes) and the Joker (Christian Hoodle) along with a spate of super villains. There was kidnapping, the search, and the fight against evil. In-between the action there were songs, familiar contemporary songs. The kids sang their hearts out and Liz played the piano keeping them in key and in time. And there was choreography. Thatís a lot for little tykes to learn, but they did, and excellently, with only the odd few pauses as lines or cues were momentarily missed. It was truly a polished production.
In the colourful printed program (by Gina and Erika burroughs) the kids were asked what they enjoyed most about 11th Street Kidsí Theatre. Their answers tell the story: saying my lines; I get to act; learning about my character; singing; the costumes and fun; and, remembering ALL the lines.
The audience was filled with siblings, parents and grandparents, some with cameras running to record the children in action. Behind the scenes were more parents and friends handling costumes (all parents), staging (Melinda Hoodle), set and props (Mike Lawrence and Liz Mason), lighting and sound (Becky Shields), and front-of-house (Margo and Rick Evers). Itís community theatre at its best, the kind that children will never forget as they grow up and venture out into the world. Jean and Liz have created hundreds of memories for these young people, memories that will be with them all their lives.
After 19 years of productions they are retiring but before they do, on Friday, November 30th, 2012, they will be presenting their final show, an exciting musical comedy, about a grouchy, selfish green ogre that has always enjoyed living in peaceful solitude in his swamp, until he find his life disrupted by numerous fairy-tale beings. All past participants of 11th Street Kidsí Theatre, either on stage or behind the scenes in any capacity, will be invited to take part in the final number ďOne Singular SensationĒ.
Jean and Liz leave behind an incredible musical and theatrical legacy for this small town of 5,000. They have inspired dreams for many children, and I must say, like the main character in my own story "One Seed" they have certainly made a difference!
Thank you Jean and Liz! I salute you.
NOTE: There are many more articles on this site about great musicians and artists - (see Articles Index)