Capital Playhouse's Kids at Play kicks off season with 'The Who's Tommy'

Contributing writerJuly 11, 2013 

Capital Playhouse's Kids at Play program kicks off with "The Who's Tommy" this weekend. Pictured from left are director Matt Flores, choreographer Nick Main, stage manager Amanda Copeland, and musical director Miles Forte. All but Flores are graduates of the program.

COURTESY OF CAPITAL PLAYHOUSE

  • KIDS AT PLAY KICK OFF

    What: Kids at Play, Capital Playhouse’s summer children’s theater program, starts its season with the rock opera "The Who's Tommy."

    When: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 12-14, plus July 8-21; matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, plus July 20 and 21

    Where: Capital Playhouse, 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia

    Tickets: $16; $13 for youths 16 and younger (includes $1 ticketing fee)

    More information: 360-943-2744, capitalplayhouse.com

    THE REST OF THE SEASON

    “Once Upon a Mattress” (July 25-28), Rodgers and Hammerstein’s adaptation of the fairy tale of the princess and the pea

    “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Aug. 1-4), the farcical musical inspired by the stories of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus.

    “West Side Story” (Aug. 15-18), the classic Bernstein/Sondheim musical inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” but set in 1950s New York City.

    CREATIVE THEATER EXPERIENCE SEASON

    Creative Theatre Experience also mounts theatrical productions with young casts every summer. Shows are at Olympia High School’s performing arts center. Tickets are $8 for Arts Festival and “The Comedy of Errors,” and $12 for “Anything Goes.” Visit ctekids.org for details.

    Arts Festival (July 18-20), a production of short plays starring younger children and directed by teen interns. This year, it will include “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” based on stories by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

    “The Comedy of Errors” (July 25-27), Shakespeare’s comedy, relocated to a high school.

    “Anything Goes” (Aug. 1-3), a Cole Porter musical set on an ocean liner.

It seems that Kids at Play, Capital Playhouse’s children’s summer program, can be habit forming.

Many of the people who grow up performing in the theater’s summer musicals return as adults to work on the shows. And this season, which starts Friday night when the rock opera “Tommy” opens, there are more examples than ever.

“We’ve always had former students come back and help,” said playhouse artistic director Heidi Fredericks, herself a graduate of the Kids at Play program. “But there has definitely been a shift this year. Our graduates are putting in a lot more time as assistant directors and choreographers this summer.”

For “Tommy,” musical director Miles Forte is a recent graduate of the program, as are choreographer Nick Main and stage manager Amanda Copeland.

“For the rest of the shows, there is at least one member of the artistic team who is a graduate of Kids at Play,” said Gregory Conn, an administrative assistant for the program. “In addition, most of the office staff this summer has come up through the ranks of the program, and the head of our costume shop is also a Kids at Play grad from many years back.”

Fredericks, too, is a graduate of the venerable summer program that gave the playhouse its start.

“I came back to work at the program when I was 16 myself,” she said, “and that was a long time ago.

“Capital Playhouse — and particularly Kids at Play — definitely becomes a large part of your life. It’s hard to just participate a little bit,” she added. “For those of us who come back, it’s because we had a positive experience in our childhood that helped make us the people that we are.”

Matthew Flores, who’s directing “Tommy,” said, “I’ve seen the kids that I’m directing grow up through the program. After being away for a few years, coming back and seeing these kids, I’m blown away by the talent that they have and by how much they’ve grown.

“It’s magical to see these kids grow up, to see where they are going in their lives and what paths they are choosing.”

Flores is not a Kids at Play graduate, but he’s been around the playhouse so long that people think he is. He began volunteering for regular-season shows in the late ’90s, when he was a high school junior.

From that start, he went on to act in regular-season shows as well as the Kids at Play alumni productions, which mix adult cast members with students, and to direct Students on Stage productions, the shorter plays that the playhouse takes to area schools. “Tommy” is the first full-length production he’s directed.

“When I started diving into the score, I was almost like, ‘Uh-oh, what did I just get myself into?’ and ‘Can I do this?’” he said. “It’s been very challenging.”

One of the biggest challenges: Flores now lives and works in Seattle and has been making a daily commute to rehearsals. But the opportunity, he said, is worth it.

“It’s been a huge learning experience for me and for the kids,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

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