After 12 years in action, non-profit group Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre is still going strong, kept alive by the passion of local volunteer director Richard Wruth.
Wruth had been directing and producing two shows a year with the theatre group since he graduated from high-school, as well as running his clothes store in town California Dreamin’.
Wruth got into acting through school …
“I just kind of got into it at school and I loved it.
“It was always like a group, a family – and as I moved up in the ranks I started stage managing as well so I was both acting and stage managing for all the musicals,” said Wruth.
After acting in school productions since elementary school, Wruth enrolled in a workshop when he was in Grade 11 called ‘Stage Craft.’
“That’s where I learnt to build and paint sets and do lighting and music and all that,” said Wruth.
In his last year of high school he started a career prep program in theatre which involved him directing and producing the play Tom Sawyer at St. Joseph’s elementary school.
After graduation he planned to get a university degree in drama and then go into teaching but decided he wasn’t ready. Instead he put on another show at St. Joseph’s and the following spring established the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre.
Kids who join the community group pay a $100 registration fee, all of which goes back into the group to help pay for the shows.
As well as putting on fantastic performances in Vanderhoof, the theatre group also take their productions to the Prince George playhouse where they perform sold out shows for four days to a number of the schools.
“We used to do public shows as well, but we found that our school shows were selling out and the public shows were averaging about 100 people,” said Wruth.
“The one year we said let’s cancel the public shows and do all school shows and it took off from there,” he added.
Schools pay $2 per child which covers the cost of the playhouse.
Kids in the theatre group have to fundraise $150 each to pay for their stay in Prince George which includes, travel, food, hotel and entertainment.
This year the theatre group are putting together The Music Man musical.
In the production, con man Harold Hill, poses as a boys’ band organizer and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk before skipping town with the cash. In River City, Iowa, librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo sees through him, but when Hill helps her younger brother overcome his fear of social interactions due to his lisp, Marian begins to fall in love with Harold. Harold, in turn falling for Marian, risks being caught to win her.
The musical is being performed at the small auditorium at the high school at the end of November and at the Prince George playhouse at the beginning of December.
Entrance is by donation and all proceeds go back into the theatre.
So what does passionate volunteer Wruth get out of it?
“Putting a smile on a kids face makes all the hair-pulling and hard work worth it,” said Wruth.
“And if you can make that one parent proud of their kid then I’m happy – this one year we had a kid who had never done theatre before – he had always done sports and then on opening night his dad came – he was a tough guy and when I looked out into the audience and he was crying I knew I had done something good.”