John Wood, co-producer of the Theatre Arts Festival for Youth, doesn't want his event being compared to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, something he describes at its worst as "people, dust and money."
And don't think of the festival as cut-rate entertainment.
According to Wood, "Children's theater is thought of in the industry as second-class. You don't go into children's theater for the money. There has to be love there."
So far, since its unheralded birth two years ago, the youth festival--known as TAFFY--has demonstrated that commitment.
The brainchild of performers John and Pam Wood, TAFFY has taken some of Los Angeles' best children's artists and set them casually in the child-pleasing, sprawling Peter Strauss Ranch in Agoura.
The third annual nonprofit festival, to be held Saturday and Sunday, is changing the formula somewhat. In addition to performances and workshops, an English village has been created, the 1850 mythical town of Puddledumplin. Animal characters--the Taffy Players--will interact with festival-goers.
The Woods, the husband-and-wife performing team of J. P. Nightingale, came out of San Jose's free-wheeling '60s hippie scene to become an integral part of L.A. children's theater.
Hosting Hollywood Bowl's Open House Program for 14 years, they have performed their songs and stories all over the Southland.
In a recent interview at the cozy Canoga Park home they share with 5-year-old son Andy, two doves, two cats, a Bedlington terrier and a 100-gallon tank of tropical fish, the Woods talked about TAFFY's growth as a reflection of their own.
"After doing 5,500 shows," John said, "we've grown confident of who we are as performers. There's a sense of communication with the audience and (TAFFY) is just another extension of that."
"There's going to be a running storyline with the Taffy Players through the course of the day," John said. "A debate, an election, a trial--and Eduard de Ville, the Rat, will give elocution lessons. You may only pick up bits of it here and there, but the Players' own little play will be running for six hours."
Two stages will feature Dan Crow, Judi Garratt, the Imagination Company, Paul Tracey, We Tell Stories, the Jim Gamble Marionettes, the L.A. Moving Van & Puppet Company, Opera Antics, Rhythms of the Village, Janet & Judy, Charles the Clown, Schwartz and Chung and Peter Alsop.
"People will have to make choices,"he said.