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Ottawa children's theatre company invited to international festival

Ottawa theatre company Once Upon a Kingdom is going to perform at next year's World Festival of Children's Theatre in Stratford, Ont.

Ottawa theatre company Once Upon a Kingdom, shown here, has been invited to perform at an international festival being held in Stratford, Ont., next year.

Bryson Masse / For Metro

Ottawa theatre company Once Upon a Kingdom, shown here, has been invited to perform at an international festival being held in Stratford, Ont., next year.

Months of hard work have paid off for a local theatre company, which recently received an invitation to perform at an international theatre festival. 

Once Upon a Kingdom will be participating in the World Festival of Children’s Theatre running from June 5 to 14, 2016 in Stratford, Ont. The thespian capital in southern Ontario has been selected to be host to the festival for the first time in North America.

Founded in 2009, the Once Upon a Kingdom theatre company is a creation of University of Ottawa graduate Ekaterina Vetrov. The children’s performance group is an avenue for young people to excel in the theatrical arts.

The company looks for – from the Ottawa area and beyond – actors, choreographers, designers and composers who are looking for a professional environment to hone their skills. Every year, Once Upon a Kingdom produces and performs completely original pieces.

“It’s awesome to have an outlet that allows kids to do this. Typically, kids will come to class and you tell them what to do,” said Alexandra Isenor, the general manager of Once Upon a Kingdom. “The thing that’s different about our class is, we really listen to them and it’s their voices shown on stage.”

Bryson Masse / For Metro

The young actors of Once Upon a Kingdom had to demonstrate their ability to earn their newest invitation after performing in North American venues like the Washington Children’s Festival, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival and the prestigious Magnetic North Festival. They participated in an international theatre exchange, where they hosted Atlanta’s Solo Theatre. The company wants to show that the performing arts community still has room to grow in Ottawa.

“People always want to leave Ottawa,” said Isenor. “Ottawa can be a huge scene if people were to create this kind of theatre.”

At the international festival, Once Upon a Kingdom will be performing beside troupes from 18 different countries. Previously held in places such as Turkey, Japan and Cuba, the World Festival of Children’s Theatre says it works to bring “the world’s children together to share each other’s stories and culture through theatre.” The festival expects about 250 children between the ages of seven and 15 will perform in Stratford.

“They are doing theatre for each other. The audience will be made up of children from other countries and the local school district,” said Steve Rae, general manager of the festival in Stratford. “They’re on board with it as well. They give us lots and lots of support.”

Sanctioned by the International Amateur Theatre Association, the festival occurs every two years and returns to its original location of Lingen, Germany every other event. 

The steering committee fought for Canada and Stratford to be the 2016 venue of the festival.

“It was quite a process to get the bid into (the International Amateur Theatre Association),” said Rae. “It was like mini Olympic bid.”

Bryson Masse / For Metro

The families of the city known for its Shakespeare festival are gearing up to host the kids and their chaperones in their homes. The organizers are inspired by the chances of which the kids attending will be able to take advantage.

“That opportunity for the children of our area to meet other children from around the world, find common bonds with them, make Facebook friend with them,” said Rea. “That moves mountains. That changes the world we live in, and the world they live in.”

“We all do theatre, so in a way we all speak the same language,” said 10-year-old Once Upon a Kingdom student Natalie Vilkoff, when asked if she was worried about making new friends.

The World Festival of Children’s Theatre will announce their complete lineup on October 15th and will have Canadian favourites Blue Rodeo to return to Stratford for a benefit concert.

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