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Love to Play

By Jennifer Chapis

Picture 12-year-old Mark Fatum, a light-

ning bolt painted on his face, lip-synching “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (“Ground Control to Major Tom . . .”) in an intergalactic talent show where the grand prize is planet Earth itself. No, The Galaxy’s Got Talent is not an NBC blockbuster television series, it was a theatrical production staged by Luv2Act, a local children’s theater where kids co-create their own performances. With no auditions, no scripts, and no starring roles, this one-of-a-kind drama company is all about fun. Their philosophy: Risk a little less control for a lot more delight.

Who’s the ringleader behind the improvisational comedy skits and shimmering butterfly dance performances? Meet founder Kim Henry, devoted coach who spends her afternoons encouraging 3- to 13-year-olds to laugh, sing and shout their way to the stage. “My first priority is that everyone has a good time,” smiled Kim. Wearing an African shell necklace, red hippie-chic blouse and funky dance pants, the 42-year-old drama director is gifted with more energetic imagination than most third-graders. I felt a kinship with this woman who custom-designed her own meaningful dream job: helping kids express themselves. As a writing professor turned energy healer, I could relate. I custom-design private “Writing for Healing” workshops because, much like Kim, I want to empower people without critiquing them. Luv2Act helps kids learn one of life’s most useful skills: how to discover fresh possibilities in each evolving moment. How to 24

Salt • October 2014

trust your instincts. How to think for yourself. Originally from London, Kim enjoyed studying in a well-respected British theater as a teen, but looking back, she regrets not being afforded more creative license as a developing performer. “We were told what to do, and that was that,” she said, tying her layers of dark hair into a loose bun. “Luv2Act performers have the opportunity to choreograph dances, inform the story, make costumes, select music and write narration.” Kim and her chief assistant, Paige Haney guide the process, but their elementary-aged troupe offers oodles of input along the way. In a Star Wars dream sequence with lightsabers, the youngest girl may seem the least likely candidate to play Darth Vader, yet the audience loved the irony. (Imagine prerecorded Vader-breathing emanating from the tiniest female frame.) At Luv2Act, artistic integrity and unconstrained creativity go hand-in-hand. “There’s a point in rehearsals when it looks like chaos, but gradually that seed grows into a solid tree with many branches. You have to trust it will come together.” Actively collaborating with children keeps Kim inspired and engaged. There’s a time to let it go and a time to rein it in, a fine line between freedom and form. “It’s not about enabling thirty ego trips,” she said. “The show needs to work as a whole.” But with ingenuity under their feet, the kids jump higher more joyfully. They’re learning voice projection, spatial awareness, choreography and stage communication. They’re also learning to let ideas fly without worry. As someone who works with clients every day to help them release fear, I can safely propose that this principle is at least partly responsible for the overwhelming joy an audience feels while witnessing Kim’s troupe perform. Last winter, galaxy game-show host Riley Perdue improvised lines that had 150 audience members in stitches. Perhaps that’s why we call a theatrical performance a “play.” The most magical moments cannot be scripted, and the pure pleasure is contagious. “It’s not for everyone,” Kim admitted. “Some kids want to be told where to stand. Some mothers want their son to be the star. But I can humbly say that most people who discover us love us. All I want for my own daughter and son is for them to be at peace with their authentic selves.” The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Photographs by Mark steelman

With no auditions, no scripts and no starring roles, Kim Henry’s innovative children’s theatrical group turns loose the divine power of creativity and fun

October Salt 2014  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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