The Talespinner Children’s Theatre (TCT) is hosting its primary fundrasing benefit, the Harlequinade Benefit at the Reinberger Auditorium in the Gordon Square Arts District. This two-day affair gives adults (the “Kids at Heart”), children and families a chance to come out, play, and support TCT.
We caught up with Alison Garrigan, executive artistic director at the Talespinner Children’s Theatre, about what the theater has become since its 2011 opening, what she’s learned along the way, where the future of TCT is growing, and of course, the Harlequinade benefit!
CC: For those that don’t know, what is the Talespinner Children’s theatre?
AG: Talespinner Children’s Theatre is a company of professional theater artists that produces imaginative, thought-provoking, interactive plays for children. It uses as its source folktales, faerie stories and mythology from around the world, as well as stories from other artistic disciplines — opera, ballet, etc. We employ local playwrights and theater artists to create world premiere productions for the children and families in Cleveland and the surrounding area. TCT believes that the arts should be accessible to all, and provides several different programs to make it possible for any and everyone to experience. We also provides both in-house and outreach arts educational programming.
CC: What are the Cliffnotes on how Talespinner Children’s Theatre began?
AG: While the idea to start a professional theatre for children had been a dream of mine for many years, the actual spark that put it into action came for me at a Cleveland Public Theatre artists’ meeting. Raymond Bobgan asked what was missing in the professional theater community in Cleveland. “A professional children’s theater” was the unanimous answer. I knew it was time to finally make my dream a reality. I wanted to create something that was smart and unique, a place where children would be honored and engaged, as well as a place where artists could have a voice, stretch and grow. I interviewed dozens of professional artists and arts educators in the community to get their thoughts on the way I wanted to put things together, and the support was overwhelming! While I’m the person who dreamed this particular dream, I give enormous credit to everyone in the community who supported its inception, and gave creative input and feedback.
CC: How has the TCT grown and evolved since its founding?
AG: The answer to that is by leaps and bounds, and in amazing ways. TCT’s growth has been nothing short of miraculous to me. It has received an incredible outpouring of support from both the public, the theater and educational community. We started with two full productions in our first season, and now we do four, plus a full touring production that goes out to family groups and schools. Our outreach programs have quadrupled in size, and our in-house classes have created a wonderful student and family base for future programming. We’re about to announce an exciting new plays workshop for the summer of 2016 (called PLAYground), and have instituted several internships. Audiences have expanded enormously, and we have been able to give an artistic outlet to more and more fine artists, writers, designers and arts educators in the Cleveland area. They in turn bring more and more imaginative works to our stage with every production.
CC: How has your dream been fulfilled?
AG: We’ve created a place where children can experience and be a part of the arts. A wholly accessible, magical place that lets kids be kids, and “big kids” be kids again for just a little while. Our works let children and families have a window to the world, a way to celebrate both the differences and the similarities in us all. For me, it’s always been about the children and families, and a place where artists can be fulfilled and have a voice. To be able to provide this … to see it fly, to watch and hear the children’s and the artists’ joy, that fills my heart in a way I cannot describe.
CC: What have you learned that may have shifted your original idea?
AG: I think the only things that have really changed are the ones that came as a natural outgrowth of collaborative artistic work. In very large measure, we’re still holding true to the original idea. I feel that things have been greatly enhanced by the input of all of the artists who have worked with and for us, but things seem to be very much in line with what was intended at the start. The biggest learning curve was the timing of educational and public matinees. We danced around a bit with when we offered both public and student matinees, and they changed for the first two seasons. But after polling the audiences and the teachers, we finally came up with what we have now, which seems to work out very nicely.
CC: Where do you see the theater growing in the future?
AG: We are currently doing four mainstage productions per season. Eventually, we would like to get that up to six, and establish a resident acting company per season to become a true repertory company. We hope to continue expanding the number, as well as the type of outreach we provide, and continue exploring ways to make what we do even more accessible to everyone.
CC: What are the details for the Harlequinade Benefit?
AG:: Sat 10/17, is for the “Kids at Heart,” with a world premier performance of Peter and the Wolf, adapted by Cleveland playwright Greg Vovos. There will be a silent auction, wine and hors d’oeuvres. This is the portion of the event in which we will announce our upcoming 2016 season. We’ll be honoring Jonathan Farwell [Garrigan’s father], Cleveland Play House resident company alum, who along with his wife Jo Farwell [Garrigan’s mother], created the original Talespinner program as I was growing up. Tickets for this evening are $40 per individual or $75 per couple.
On Sun 10/18, families can come see Peter and the Wolf, and stay for face painting, theater games, puppet-making and an ice cream social with sundaes provided by Sweet Moses Ice Cream. Tickets for Sunday are $15 (ages 13+), $12 (seniors and college students with ID) and $10 (ages 12 and under). Those attending the Saturday night portion of the event are invited to come back the next day with their kids for free.
CC: For those attending a show, what should they expect?