Tim Ritter and his wife, Angie, own Family Fun Xperience in Virginia Beach, which offers interactive performances for families and groups.
TFP: Why are the arts important for today’s families?
TR: Arts are vital for families because they convey complex emotions, concepts, relationships, and values in an accessible fashion. Angie and I have worked for decades with children and teens and found all mediums of artwork engage young minds in a very personal way. We tend to see bits of ourselves reflected in each work. Experienced together and shared as a family, art helps connect us to one another and learn about where we are each growing or struggling.
TFP: Tell us about your background: where you were raised, went to school, career, family, etc.
TR: Angie and I grew up in a small town south of St. Louis and lived in Minnesota and Indiana before coming to Virginia Beach seven years ago. We’ve been married for 32 years, with two wonderful adult children, who also ended up in Virginia. Angie works for the city of Norfolk, serving children birth to age 3 with developmental delays. My graduate degrees are in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri, and I served for various churches as a Family Pastor, while also teaching or training with school kids, corporate execs, and seniors.
TFP: How did you come to be interested in the theater?
TR: I always loved theater, as well as movies, film, and storytelling in general. It’s so much fun, even though there is a lot of hard work involved in every production. We all tell stories, but in a theater we get to experience something very unique and live together. There’s nothing really quite like it.
TFP: Why did you decide to develop interactive shows that encourage audience interaction?
TR: It’s always best when audiences are highly engaged, not just sitting and watching. Games of all varieties lower barriers to help people connect, and they are fun! We did tons of highly interactive things working with families in the church also, so it was a natural leap for us to embed this in a theatrical production. Nothing quite like this has been done before.
TFP: What is your most popular show?
TR: Our signature show, The Family Fun Xperience, is designed for year-round production. With the unexpected challenges of launching in 2020, we did re-invent all the interactive elements and also ended up doing about a dozen different types of smaller productions. Our limited fall run of the full FFX Show was a lot of fun and will certainly be our most popular in the long run, but right now our Fun & Games Show is very popular. The great feedback we get from audiences regularly is that they didn’t know what to expect but had a real blast together. We aim to connect families primarily, but we have found many of our shows becoming popular with young adults, couples, and seniors also.
TFP: How has the current pandemic affected FFX?
TR: The better question might be how hasn’t it affected us? Pretty much every aspect of what we intended to launch last April has had to ‘pivot’ multiple times to bring live productions safely to the stage. On top of safely spaced seating, enhanced cleaning, abundant hand sanitizer, and more, we’ve had to invent ways to use masks/shields with cast and staff during interactive elements and use UV sanitizers for microphone packs. We look forward to being able to fully open but are still working with the 30 percent of seating capacity restriction and happy to see patrons coming out to enjoy live shows together.
TFP: What are your goals for FFX?
TR: Our mission with FFX goes beyond the production itself. We want to help connect and strengthen families, to build up each family member in their role. Families come in all shapes and sizes and types, and we believe they are a vital building block to our culture and our nation. We are working on resources so that after families have fun at the show together, they can also have ways to explore the questions they have. We want to create custom versions of the show for military families, special needs families, and others.
TFP: How can parents develop a love of the arts in their children?
TR: First, find what you love. Second, be open to exploring. Art is embedded in so many areas of life, so while art museums, galleries, concerts, and theaters are all great, take the time to look around with your children. Architecture, sculptures, murals, statues, and more pop up as we walk or drive around town, so just stop and take a moment. God paints wonderful landscapes and sky paintings as we take in the world. Talk about it all with your kids or teens. They may see some things that surprise you, but the biggest thing you are teaching them is to stop and notice, finding beauty in what may seem mundane.
Many arts institutions worldwide have created access to great works during the pandemic, but for real impact, put down the devices and get out there to experience things in person. Visit music and art festivals at the oceanfront. Check out a gallery just for fun. And of course, savor that fridge art they make so you can celebrate whatever they create in their life as they get older.
TFP: Feel free to add anything else our readers might be interested to learn about you.
TR: Thanks for this time to share about our theatre. We really love the great vibe of Virginia Beach, and our hearts are all about reaching and connecting with families. We are so excited about what the future has in store for the oceanfront area and our region as a whole. If you’d like to help us in our mission toward families, we depend on individual donors and business sponsors to make this dream come true for years to come. Check out our shows and ways you can get involved at FFXshow.org.