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Kids & Company Observing 20th Anniversary of Children's Theatre

Theatre Professor Lois Hick Is Founder and Managing Director

June 11, 2013

Kids & Company managing director Lois Hock is flanked on her right by dozens of participants in the 2012 Drama Camp.

Kids & Company managing director Lois Hock is flanked on her right by dozens of participants in the 2012 Drama Camp.

The realization of Clinton County Kids & Company being 20 years old hits managing director Lois A. Hock full force when she runs into former participants from the early days of the children’s theatre program.

“They’ll come up to me with their kids and say, ‘Do you remember me? I used to go to Drama Camp,’” said Hock, professor of theatre at Wilmington College. “Only when I see how they’ve grown up do I realize it’s been that long.”

She believes the Kids & Company experience for youth fulfills a need in a community that has rich offerings of theatre in the schools and at WC, as well as through College-Community Summer Theatre.

“Also, this is something I feel, using my skills and knowledge, I can give back to the community,” Hock said.

The 2013 version of Kids & Company is rehearsing Charlie & the Chocolate Factory for presentation June 21, at 7 p.m., and June 22, at 1 p.m., at Wilmington High School. It is free of charge and alumni of past Kids & Company seasons will be recognized at the shows.

Later this summer, it is hosting its Rising Star Drama Camp mornings, July 15 through 19, at Wilmington College for the first 26 children ages six to 10 that register. Gigglebox Theatre Experience of Cincinnati will teach the children during the half-day camps. Also, Drama Camp for those ages 11 through 16 will be held Aug. 5 through 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at WC. Registration forms for both camps are available at The Crave and Books-n-More in downtown Wilmington.

Hock recalled the unlikely genesis of Kids & Company. Several years after she joined the theatre faculty at the College, she was asked to teach a children’s drama course at WC.

“The students were learning how to write plays for kids and their project was to stage a play using local children,” she said, noting Bryan Wallingford, a 2002 WC graduate that now teaches theatre at Wilmington City Schools, was cast in that first show, Little Red Riding Hood and the Vegetarian Wolf.

“I remember asking the then eight-year-old Bryan, ‘Do you think you could be a wolf?’” she added. “He replied, ‘Sure, I’ve been a dinosaur all afternoon.’

“We used paint and whatever we could find. The ‘stage’ was a section of green shag carpeting,” she said, noting they performed on the steps of the Clinton County Courthouse and in a patio area near WC’s Boyd Auditorium.

After several years of the children’s theatre class reaching out to the community for child actors, the late, local educator, Esther Williams, shared with Hock her concern that the community needed more theater experiences for children. Williams mentioned the existence of the Charlie Fisher Trust Fund designed for exposing children to the arts.

(LEFT) Lois Hock

Armed with the success she enjoyed related to the class, along with advocates Williams and the late Dr. Mary Boyd, Hock convinced the County Commissioners to help fund the summer program of plays and drama camps initially known as Children’s Theatre Project.

“When we launched our first season, I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. They staged Hansel and Gretel for two shows at the Murphy Theatre — to packed houses.

Impressed with the fledgling first attempt, Wilmington College offered her a $10,000 grant and sabbatical from teaching in order for her to study successful children’s theatre. She traveled to Louisville, St. Louis and Atlanta, as well as throughout Ohio — “anywhere there was children’s theatre.”

Hock named the new venture Clinton County Kids & Company with the company part of the name alluding to the occasional use of adults in the productions. The commissioners approved funding the second year.

Since then the format each summer has been to hold drama camps and present two 30-minute shows, which accommodates a condensed rehearsal period and allows more children to be involved. This year’s single show, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, is an anomaly, but she wanted to produce one big show in observance of the milestone season.

The plays moved from the Murphy to using the mobile city stage at Denver Williams Park during the first decade, but holding the shows outside in June sometimes presented weather issues.

“One year, the wind flipped a throne off the stage,” Hock said, also recalling a sweltering day in which they did the show with nothing but a sea of grass between the stage and several far-off trees under which there sat the audience vying for a place in the shade.

Ultimately, it made sense to move permanently to the high school.

Wilmington College has been the venue for the two drama camps each summer. These have proven so popular that children have traveled from other parts of the country to stay with grandparents in Wilmington while attending the camps.

Hock shared a story of receiving a call from a mother whose daughter did just that.

“She said, ‘You sent back a different girl to us. She’s so much more poised and self-confident after only a week,’” Hock said.

“For many kids, theatre is an alternative to sports,” she said. “It encourages creativity and, like sports, theatre is all about team-building, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-motivation and work ethic. It also makes them think on their feet, become more spontaneous and it develops their ability to listen.

“Camps also build the skills and give them the confidence to learn how to audition.”

However, one thing camps rarely do is financially break even.

The children’s tuition covers only part of the cost and, dating back to support from the Charlie Fisher Trust Fund in the early years, outside assistance is required to sustain Kids & Company.

“Kids & Company is a non-profit, grant and sponsor-driven organization,” Hock said. “We’re lucky to have involvement from such talented and committed theatre arts educators as Ken and Tara Lydy, in addition to the generous support we receive from our sponsors.”