By Heidi Sampson
Special to The Free Press
---- — During the summer of 2004, Wee Kids Theater started out as a simple puppet play production designed to be a Christmas present for the parents of Kait and Chuck Klammer’s grandchildren.
The production was title, “Three Wise Men and a Baby,” and its theme consisted of the idea that you are the most perfect gift you can give.
“We constructed a theater in our basement that would hold up to 30 people,” Kait said. “The puppet theater itself was gigantic. It had four different windows and each grandchild operated two different puppets at the same time; however, the play called for more puppet roles than there were hands available.”
The children recruited a few friends and their parents fill out the extra puppets — Benny and Renee Schroeder, in particular. The Schroeders also happened to be sound and light technicians. While the Schroeders helped to glitz up the performance with microphones and specialized lighting, the children began constructing their stage from the ground up.
“We ended up doing three performances that year — one for their parents, a grandfather's 60th birthday performance and one performance for whoever came over,” Kait said. “From that point on, our puppet theater morphed into the beginnings of Wee Kids Theater.”
The following summer of 2005, Kait took her grandchildren to the Lighthouse, where they found their next production, “Mayhem in Bethlehem.” The cast for this play consisted of around 15children.
“I remember telling them that if they could round up enough children for the cast, we’d do the production,” Kait said. “That was when my husband said, ‘I tell you what: If they can get 15 kids together, I’ll make them a theater out in my machine shed.’ So the children rounded up the kids, Chuck built the theater, and the Schroeders came back to help with the lighting and microphones.”
Since the fall of 2005, Wee Kids Theater performances have included, “Mayhem in Bethlehem,” “The Tale of Three Trees,” “Once Upon a Time Shop,” and “Camel Lot.” This year’s upcoming musical production of “Jonah’s Druthers: A Whale of a Tale from the Good Book,” an 1850’s contemporary reinterpretation of the biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale, is set in the Wild West.
“We started creating our set shortly after spring started and spent all summer working on the production,” Kait said. “All of the children help to build our sets. They complete the props, help with costume alterations, and the artist work. They even autographed the particular piece of our set that they create.”
Wee Kids Theater is unique in that they do not hold auditions for the children. “We fill out the ranks on a first-come-first-serve basis. We will work with whoever comes through the door,” Kait said. “If I have more children than I have roles, I get permission to add in small roles so that all of our children have an acting part.”
Currently, Wee Kids Theater has around 35 children who participate. They come from all over Mankato and surrounding towns. The average practice lasts two-and-a-half hours and takes place primarily on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with final performances held in the fall. The director of this year’s production is Alison Urness, a Mankato East graduate who grew up with Wee Kids Theater.
“I started with Wee Kids during their first production in the shed,” Urness said. “This has just been the normal thing to do every other summer.”
If You Go What Wee Kids Theater's "Jonah's Druthers: A Whale of a Tale from the Good Book" Where Chuck and Kait Klammer's farm: 54941 178th St., Good Thunder Performances 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sept. 14. Also, 3 p.m. on Sunday. Admission Free Fundraiser During Sunday's performance, Wee Kids is hosting a fundraiser for Risen Savior Lutheran School's Feed My Lambs Campaign. Proceeds donated during that show, will be given to the school building campaign. After the production, the Klammer's will host a fundraising dinner at 6 p.m. in their machine shed. Buster's Sports Bar and Grill will supply the food at a cost of $50 per plate.