Wednesday, March 29 2023 10:24

Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society Celebrates Its 23rd Season

Written by Shannon Montgomery

Making theater fun since 2001

The arts are alive and well in our area, especially when it comes to theater — from Media Theatre and People’s Light in Malvern, to newcomers like West Chester’s Uptown. And in Kennett Square, a local organization has brought their unique brand of entertainment to the region for more than 20 years.

The Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society was founded in 2001 by a group of friends with the goal to stage British pantomimes (or pantos) while providing a fun, inclusive environment for amateurs of all ages and abilities — from actors to stage crew to writers and directors.

Today, KATS is 100 members strong, attracting hundreds of fans to their performances each year with fun, interactive theater. “I think what makes them so special is how inclusive they are — welcoming all ages, walks of life and theatrical ability,” says Daniel Embree, Executive Director of Kennett Collaborative. “We love supporting organizations that make Kennett a more welcoming — and fun — place to be, and KATS is right there.”

What’s a Panto?

“Imagine a fairy story done in a vaudeville style with songs, music, terrible jokes, cross-dressing and humor that can be appreciated — if not always understood — by the entire family,” explains KATS co-founder Gary Smith.

With origins in 17th-century England, the panto is a twist on well-known fairy tales and fables, filled with slapstick comedy, musical numbers and dancing. The audience cheers the heroes, boos the villains and sings along.

Since 2002, KATS has staged pantos every January, performing through snowstorms, fire alarms and even Covid-19 (on Zoom in 2021). All pantos are written and staged by KATS members and filled with local commentary, British humor and outrageous costumes.

And More

Beyond the annual panto, there’s more fun to be had from KATS, with one-act plays in Anson B. Nixon Park and at Kennett Flash, plus free murder mysteries on the streets of Kennett Square every summer.

Their popular murder mysteries put costumed suspects in or around participating stores for members of the public, acting as “detective assistants,” to stop by each shop and interview the characters to discover who had the means, motive and opportunity to do the dastardly deed.

“It’s proved to be a popular event,” says Caroline Smith, KATS co-founder and board member. “Retailers say it’s been an ice-breaker, encouraging people who hadn’t visited their stores before to come back later to look around and make purchases.”

Look for details later this spring about the next murder mystery — on Facebook, Instagram or their website,