Richard Wruth cultivates a child’s garden of theatre

Richard Wruth of the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre is one of those who recognizes there’s a lot to be gained right in his own back yard

Some young people can’t wait to grow up and get out of their home town and go conquering new and exotic territories.

Yet, some are lucky enough to find a worthwhile project that gives them a balance of challenges and satisfaction right near home.

Richard Wruth of the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre is one of those who recognizes there’s a lot to be gained right in his own back yard or his own back stage as it were.

“It’s pretty nice to be able to work at this,” Wruth says with a smile. The “this” he is referring to is producing and directing kids in musical theatre every year.

“I started in 1999,” he remembers, “I had planned to go to college. But, now I think why, when you’ve worked so hard to build something like this yourself, why would you leave it?”

And his months are so peppered with auditions, rehearsals and road trips, it’s easy to see have the past twelve years have sped past, as being busy lends to that perception. Wruth became involved in drama in grade 8 and said he knew he loved it right away.

Why kids?

“I love it. Working with kids is the best,” he raves, explaining he works with young people from grades two to twelve. But why does he love it? The Vanderhoof native tries to nail down the reason, and then he says, “Kids are great, they’re fun. And it’s partly because they do what you want unlike adults who are constantly questioning your direction and saying ‘maybe I should do it this way’,” he says chuckling a little, “but I do take the kids’ input as well.”

How many kids does he work with at once? It’s usually around thirty to forty, but he has worked with large groups in the range of 75 at once.

That may sound a little crazy … its been reported most teachers start to gnaw on their own flesh when their classes reach that 30 mark.

Auditions are coming up next week for the next double bill he’s producing: Winnie-the-Pooh and Cinderella.

“Everyone gets in,” he explains, “everyone gets a role.”

It helps that the productions are musical theatre, and require singers as well as actors. There’s all the elements: singing, dancing and acting.

He has also done dinner theatre, as with Sinkut theatre and Christmas concerts, but he said that there just isn’t enough time to do that on top of all the rest he does, he discovered.

Really. You don’t say?!

There’s a lot that needs doing when you’ve been involved with close to 3,000 performances on and off the stage, and all that needs to be done, manufactured, measured and fitted. Then there’s getting everything put away and cleaned up after each and every performance as well.

“Yeah, there’s the organizing the sets, props, costumes,” he says, working the numbers out, almost in disbelief at the figures.

“I guess I have good helpers,” he says, nodding. He credits the families of the kids with stepping up to helping get lots of the necessary stuff worked out.

He’s referring to the moms in charge of sewing costumes, and the ones who do fund raising, and all the people who assist in building props and helping out back stage.

They also take the theatre on the road. One can almost hear a chorus of kids singing “are we there yet? in ostinato repetition.

Wruth said last year they went all the way to Kelowna and he plans to do it again. Why, you ask?

“It was an absolute blast,” Wruth shares, “we did six shows, all were sold out and it’s a big theatre, and nice.”

What else is involved that makes that a good time?

“The kids feed off of being in a different theatre, in a different community,” he notes.

He said it’s also a challenge the theatre kids rise to, with the different lights, different stage set up and only a short time to adjust.

“Kids adapt very well, the quick changes; sometimes four to five times they change costumes and they only have one minute to change,” he marvels, “It can get pretty hectic in the change rooms, some of the newer parents look pretty overwhelmed,” he notes, “it’s incredible how much needs to happen, to change sets and props and everything.”

There’s always the unexpected things that make some occasions interesting, of course.

“Once we had these brand new headsets and they didn’t charge properly so we had to scramble to get the communications back up and running.”

And yet the show went on, “And no one even knew, I don’t think, that we were having any problems.”

Of course people are more forgiving if there are trip-ups, the young producer notes. It’s children’s theatre.

Wruth remembers another great aspect of the genre is that if there are lots of kids in one family, often many of them are participating in the play together, and a whole family will come to watch as well, he says.

“That’s another reason why the plays are by donation, because if you can afford to, you’re more likely to bring the whole family and maybe even come see it twice.”

Wruth notes that this year, instead of doing the usual one hour play, they’re trying out doing two half-hour plays, Winnie-the-Pooh and Cinderella.

“I think they’ll be popular because people are familiar with those characters,” he guesses.

He said the plays start on the May 24 weekend.

“We usually take the play to Prince George first and then bring it home to Vanderhoof in June,” he says.

Wruth and his sister run a clothing store their family started. He says he’s lucky for his sibling being flexible.

“I better get back,” he says, looking at the clock hands that show we’ve been talking for nearly an hour, “I told her I was just going to the post office,” he says jumping up. Then he stops to remember how important that relationships has been for him.

“I’m really thankful to have my sister here or I don’t think I could have done theatre,” Wruth affirms.

What a loss for the community and their kids that would have been.