Supplied photo courtesy of Luv2Act
Members of Luv2Act rehearse during a summer camp in Carolina Beach in July 2012.
Luv2Act theatre company formed nearly 10 years ago high on a mountain in the Anda Lucía region in southern Spain in an alternative community.
Director and founder, Kim Henry, has worked with kids from 3-13 since the beginning with the intention of letting them explore their creative possibilities.
“We’re a nonaudition-based company,” Henry said. “We’re about empowering the children; embracing their ideas, thoughts and strengths. We constantly encourage them to express themselves, to try new things. And we offer them a safe space to do that.”
Almost all of Henry’s performances are scripted and choreographed by the children. From subject matter, to scene selection, to costumes and props, they collaborate to create a cohesive production. Henry is of course the glue that keeps it all together.
She has been in theatre since her childhood in London. Before attending Manchester University, she joined The Young Vic theatre company and travelled with the troupe to several countries during the next year. She fell completely in love with traveling, she said, but returned to London long enough to complete a Bachelor of Arts in drama at Manchester. Shortly thereafter she joined Rise Pheonix theatre company, a charitable organization, also based in London. And the traveling commenced again. She found herself in India, Turkey, Bosnia and many other countries.
“It was such a privilege to be in Bosnia at the end of the war, to work with the children. We’d put on big parades and make these giant puppets. Wherever I was I worked with children,” Henry said.
Henry said she believes that theatre can inspire people and especially children to connect with the power within.
“I’m very interested in how drama, if it is creative, is inherently therapeutic. They learn to be authentic,” she said. “They’re all so excited by their own idea.”
The excitement was contagious at the company’s most recent performance, “Who are we?” held at the Hannah Block Historic USO Community Arts Center in downtown Wilmington on Nov. 30. The children in the audience were on their feet as liquid bodies danced like water-droplets; then stood stiff as scientists; then hooting, stomped like wild cavemen across the stage. Henry was backstage with her director’s hat on, acting out scenes from behind the curtain with the same lively energy as her young actors.
The children, ages 7-13 designed simple costumes with items found in dress-up boxes, thrift stores or things just lying around the house. The set was filled with homemade question marks fashioned out of cardboard or other stiff material and painted or decorated by the children.
“Although I’m very good at shape-shifting into any space, one thing I loved about coming to America was to be in an actual theatre again,” Henry said. She has performed all over the world in festivals, in outdoor spaces, and in many theaters, but while raising her family in Spain with her husband Stephen Bellm, musician and musical director for Luv2Act, she and her troupe performed where they could, creating beautiful outdoor spaces to accommodate their stage. Henry’s daughter, Jaya, is 10 and has been in all but three shows in the last 10 years of performances. Her son Kashi, 4, attends her drama class for 3-6 year olds at Carolina Beach Recreation Center.
Henry leads classes downtown, at Carolina Beach and at the Northeast Regional Library for homeschoolers. She said that kids at this age should be allowed to play and explore to find their strengths by conducting their own search. It’s her goal to give them an opportunity to do that. “If you plant five seeds, they’re not all going to sprout at the same time. Kids need an open space and encouragement to bloom.”
Luv2Act is more than theatre, Henry said.
“It’s everything — drama, dance, singing, writing, playing instruments, multi-media arts. It’s about what inspires the kids.”