It seems that Kids at Play, Capital Playhouses childrens summer program, can be habit forming.
Many of the people who grow up performing in the theaters 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.
Weve 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. Its hard to just participate a little bit, she added. For those of us who come back, its because we had a positive experience in our childhood that helped make us the people that we are.
Matthew Flores, whos directing Tommy, said, Ive seen the kids that Im directing grow up through the program. After being away for a few years, coming back and seeing these kids, Im blown away by the talent that they have and by how much theyve grown.
Its 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 hes 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 hes 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. Its 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.
Its been a huge learning experience for me and for the kids, he said. Ive really enjoyed it.