About Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People
Our History & How We Began…
The Secret Garden (2017)
Founded in 1973 with a $23,000 Trudeau-era employment grant, Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People has for over forty years served as Victoria’s premier producer of Theatre for Young Audiences.
The company was born when journalist Barbara McLauchlin and actor Paul Liittich sat down together in Victoria in 1973 to write an application for assistance in offering free theatre workshops to children. Since then, Kaleidoscope has survived and endured as an important force in the arts community on Vancouver Island. Now under the Artistic Direction of Roderick Glanville (since 2011), Kaleidoscope has been the driving force behind Vancouver Island’s most beloved theatre experiences for young people and their families.
In an Excerpt from “Liz Gorrie and the Kaleidoscope Alternative”, Jennifer Wise and Lauren Jerke say:
“In 1971, when director Liz Gorrie, her husband Colin, tour manager Barbara McLauchlin, and actor Paul Liittich pulled into town in a camperized yellow school bus stuffed with all their worldly possessions, a piano, some pets, the Gorries’ children, and a copy of Towards a Poor Theatre, Victoria, British Columbia was perhaps the most unapologetically colonial city in Canada. With its Royal London Wax Museum and double-decker buses, its afternoon high tea at the Empress and nightly curry at the Bengal Lounge, its cricket greens and thatched cottages—not to mention its newspaper, The Daily Colonist—Victoria was reputed in the early 1970s to be “more British than the British,” and proudly so. Gorrie, McLauchlin, and Liittich, however, had other ideas. Together they launched a de-colonizing sea-change in Victoria’s performing arts culture, offering a genuine alternative to the city’s prevailing theatrical aesthetic. And most remarkably of all, they did so in original, collectively created works intended not for adults but for children.”
Kaleidoscope’s first project, in 1973, was a free drama workshop consisting of introductory classes for children in acting, set design, and costumes. Later that year, Kaleidoscope toured two short plays, The Pirate Show and The Magic Stone, to local schools, starting with the Girls’ Alternative Program.
Elizabeth Gorrie officially joined Kaleidoscope as our first Artistic Director toward the end of our first season, in 1974.
The best theatre in Canada is happening in young people’s theatre. It’s the most original, most inventive, the freshest work being done….
– Elizabeth Gorrie, Founding Artistic Director
Kaleidoscope’s artistic mandate, formulated in 1974 and faithfully upheld to this day states that the company’s raison for being is to “provide innovative and exploratory drama for young people”. Kaleidoscope’s goal is to make theatre that surprises, challenges, and engages young people, both intellectually and aesthetically.
Kaleidoscope quickly developed a reputation for fascinating audiences of all ages. At the end of our 1976/77 season, Kaleidoscope was invited to perform at the annual conference of the Canadian Child and Youth Drama Association in Ottawa with our production of The Snow Goose. There our work was seen by hundreds of delegates of the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People/Association, or ASSITEJ, the world’s leading association of TYA practitioners. As a result of this success, the company was invited to direct the play inTelAviv,and returned to Israel again to direct The Snow Goose and Unicorns at the National Children’s Theatre in 1981 and 1984.
In 1979, UNESCO’s “Year of the Child,” Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People was chosen to represent Canada at an international TYA festival in Wales. Over the next twenty years, we would perform in Japan, Singapore, Israel, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Washington State; the company toured across Canada twice, performing in Toronto, Ottawa (including the National Arts Centre), London, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver, and every city and town in British Columbia.
The quality of the work your ensemble brings to developing well-chosen original material, and the commitment and stamina they show in performing the results to so many school children in B.C., makes your company one of the finest children’s theatre companies in the country.
– Canada Council for the Arts (1977)
In the Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre, Joyce Doolittle describes that:
“Working with the barest essentials in set, costuming, and props, and relying on movement, transformations, and imagination, Kaleidoscope has created productions of great beauty and power.”
Leslie D. Bland took over from Elizabeth Gorrie as Artistic Director in 2001, who was in turn succeeded by Roderick Glanville, our current Artistic Director, in 2011.