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OFT receives Award of Excellence

For young audiences and anyone who has ever been a kid

From left: Jill Barnes, Samantha Chandler, Jen Ryle and WCPA Board Chair Alex Bunn. Photo credit: Kathy Strauss Media

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At the Washington Center for the Performing Arts' third annual Center Stage Awards & Gala in July, 232 guests cheered as Olympia Family Theater was presented with an Award of Excellence for "achievement in the arts."

"This was an extraordinary evening of generosity and love for the arts," said Washington Center Executive Director Jill Barnes.

Founded a dozen years ago by Samantha Chandler and current Artistic Director Jen Ryle, OFT has produced more than 50 theatrical shows for and by children and adults since their first show in October 2006, and the company continues to offer educational programs for youth from infancy through high school. OFT has also premiered locally written plays such as Cinder Edna, adapted by Ted Ryle; Fishnapped by Amy Fisher and Andrew Gordon with music and lyrics by Daven Tillinghast; and 3 Impossible Questions by Christian Carvajal.

At the awards ceremony, Ryle and Chandler told stories about OFT's 12 years of theater. Ryle said, "OFT is helping raise a new generation that loves the performing arts by providing quality theatrical productions for young audiences and for anyone who has ever been a kid. It's wonderful to be recognized for something that is so close to my heart. I am truly living my dream, seeing Olympia Family Theater introduce new generations of kids to plays and musicals designed especially with them in mind. So many people have helped us to reach this point: amazing local actors, designers, technicians, musicians, writers, donors, and volunteers. We at OFT are all so proud and honored to be recognized by our friends at the Washington Center. Some of our early years were spent at the Washington Center's Black Box so it felt a little like going home to be back for this amazing event."

Barnes said, "For 12 years, Olympia Family Theater has put local performers to work and provided quality theatrical programming to even the youngest of theater patrons. The artists know that some audience members might be wiggly, giggly and rambunctiously responsive, and that is totally okay. They offer an up-close theater experience that is rare, opening the door for a lifetime of artistic appreciation. These are just a few of the reasons that Olympia Family Theater received the Achievement for the Arts Award."

OFT's 2018-2019 season opens with an adaptation of the popular children's book, Corduroy. Other main stage shows to fill out the season will include Tiny Tim's Christmas, Flora & Ulysses, The Hundred Dresses, and Go, Dog, Go!

CORDUROY, 7 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday; Sept. 28-Oct. 21, $20 adults, $16 military, $15 youth, Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.1638,

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