When about 30 kids from the Eleanor Drury Children’s Theatre (EDCT) take the stage on Dec. 6 to perform The Jungle Book (with a Northern Ontario twist) at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, they will be carrying on a local tradition that started 34 years ago.
The group was founded in 1982 by playwright Lauren Goulet, who as the artistic director, wrote and directed the first two productions: Grandma’s Stockings (about the hunt for Grandma’s stolen treasure chest by neighbours and 10-year-old Darby, and the Dreadful Drofulless luring them into his Endless Cave to feed them to his pet monster) and the sequel The Dreadful Drofulless. Since then, except for 2012, EDCT has produced one play each year under the leadership of a professional director. Past plays have included Cinderella (2015), Alice in Wonderland (2014), The Wizard of Oz (2013) and By Zeus which put old Greek mythology into modern-day context (2004). The group is named after Eleanor Drury in recognition of her contribution to community theatre in Thunder Bay.
EDCT—a volunteer-run not-for-profit community theatre group with charitable status—provides opportunities for children to learn about and take part in theatre. Children are accepted on a first come, first serve basis and all children become performers, with auditions held to
In the group’s upcoming play, The Jungle Book, there are 22 speaking parts for children aged 10 years or up, and a number of non-speaking roles on stage for those younger children under 10. Saturday rehearsals have been held since Sept., and may increase closer to the play opening. They’ll perform three shows—two matinee performances for schools and one public performance on Dec. 6.
“This is the fourth year in partnership with Thunder Bay Community Auditorium and they have been amazing to work with. The staff make the children feel like stars,” said Lorraine Lortie-Krawczuk, president of EDCT. “The kids are excited about the venue and the sheer size of the audience.”
What sets apart EDCT is the children’s involvement in the play. “Kids bring their own creativity to the play, bring their own personality into the characters—they own the role. It gives the children more ownership, a sense of accomplishment. For example, last year Cinderella wrote a song and performed it in the play,” said Krawczuk.
To choose a play, EDCT’s board meets with the producer and the two directors early in the year about what kind of play to do, then make a short-list and get consensus. “The directors come up with the ideas, staying true to the story but with some twists, like in this year’s The Jungle Book—they are switching out some of the animals and making the set more northern inspired with birch and pine trees,” explained Krawczuk.
As a volunteer-run organization, EDCT appreciates the support of the community, donors and parents in putting on the annual play and continuing the tradition of local children’s theatre, which in 2017, will celebrate its 35th year anniversary. For more information, to volunteer or donate, EDCT has a Facebook page, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.