Way Off Broadway: Quarry Pool Becomes Stage for Tenino Theater Group

“A Year With Frog and Toad”: Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre Takes to the Outdoors


From July 15 to July 25, the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre will be performing “A Year With Frog and Toad” at the Tenino Quarry Pool kiddie pool area, which was previously drained for construction.

The performance is based on the beloved “Frog and Toad” books by Arnold Lobel and will feature a score and book by Robert and Willie Reale.

The story starts with the amphibian friends — cheerful Frog and grumpy Toad — sleeping in the winter and having a conversation through their dreams. When spring arrives, they wake up and begin tending the garden. Toad becomes flustered by how slowly his seeds grow, but Frog is there to encourage him, and the seeds eventually sprout.

“That story is about patience,” said Bob McKenzieSullivan, managing director of the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre.

Frog and Toad’s stories are followed through the seasons, each featuring a musical number and a positive lesson.

One of the songs, called “Getta Load of Toad,” is about how Toad doesn’t feel comfortable in a bathing suit. His friends laugh at his expense.

“I think that’s one that’s really good for discussion, especially with all the stuff that happens in schools with bullying and stuff like that,” McKenzieSullivan said.

For that song and the others in the show, he added: “Even if it’s not crystal clear, there is a moral.” 

McKenzieSullivan and his family first created the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theatre 32 years ago. When they started, it was a children’s theater troupe under the moniker “Tenino Youth Theatre.” After several years of musicals, they gained the attention of adult thespians in the community.

“And then when adults started doing it, that (name) didn’t quite work, so we changed it to ‘Young-at-Heart,’” McKenzieSullivan said.

All these years later, the troupe still shows classics that children and adults will love, making the family-friendly pool an appropriate location. But building a set there has come with unique challenges.

“Never built on a gravel pit before, so trying to keep things level and flat is fun. Then, of course, the weather. The first weekend we were out here building was in the 100-degree heat,” said set-builder Noah McKenzieSullivan, Bob’s youngest son.

In June, Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier told The Chronicle the city was reaching out to theater groups and musical ensembles to set up performances inside the pool as it awaited construction, calling the possibility of those performances a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So far, the city has not finalized a contract for the Quarry Pool project. When work begins, expected improvements to the pool include fixed drainage and new water features.

Due to COVID-19, McKenzieSullivan was seeking an outdoor venue for a show and said when Fournier proposed using the pool, it was a no-brainer.

“It’s very Tenino,” said Noah. “Especially with the show that we happen to be doing this year, Frog and Toad, you know, you’ve got a little pond to our back that, as the sun goes down you start to hear the frogs croaking ... It’s really a perfect place.”

Admission costs $15 for adults and $13 for seniors and students. Children under 4 years old get in for free. At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, attendees can “pay what they can.” Tickets and information can be found at teninoyoungathearttheatre.org.

No performance will be held on Friday, July 23, because of Oregon Trail Days.

Showtimes for “A Year With Frog and Toad”:

Thursday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 17, at 2 p.m.

Sunday, July 18, at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 22, at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 24, at 3 p.m.

Sunday, July 25, at 2 p.m.