Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

It’s a SWEATER, Charlie Brown!

Good grief! There are so many stitches in the one and only hand-knitted sweater made for actor Christopher Curtis who plays Charlie Brown at DCT this winter. Elaine Liner, beloved DFW writer, actor, and knitting queen created the original sweater for our Charlie Brown and as DCT Costume Designer Lyle Huchton said, Elaine “made a designer’s dream come true!”

elaine-sweaterElaine’s knitting has gained her some international attention as she premiered her one-woman show SWEATER CURSE: A YARN ABOUT LOVE to the Edinburgh (Scotland) Fringe in 2013 and has taken the show back several times since, as it is always an audience favorite. SWEATER CURSE is Elaine’s one-act solo comedy about unraveled sweaters, knitting and knotty romances. She has also performed it locally and taken it on the road to San Antonio, New Orleans, and wherever her yarn feels called.  And her shows are fun offstage too because her audiences are encouraged to bring their own needlework so their hands can be kept busy throughout her performance.  Talk about interactive theater!

Flying without a pattern this time, Elaine borrowed one of Christopher’s sweaters as a fit reference.When you see the show, you will see that she nailed (ahem knitted), the PERFECT fit! After testing some color swatches to get just the right shades, she began her quest. It took Elaine 2-3 weeks and over 100 hours of knitting and sewing before she finally announced to her Facebook friends on November 11 that it was on its way to DCT!

charlie-brown-sweater-in-progress-photo-by-elaine-linerWhat’s funny to me is how many of Elaine’s friends, when they first saw the photo of the finished product quickly asked, “WHERE did you get THAT?” It struck me funny because they obviously didn’t read her post, and also because I had no idea that Charlie Brown was such an icon for fashion! Women all over DFW wanted one just like it!

Costume designer Lyle Huchton explains, “I knew from the beginning that I wanted the iconic Charlie Brown shirt made into a sweater and after asking around I could find no one who would commit to doing it. I knew that Elaine knitted, although she and I had never met, so I reached out to her to see if she was interested or if she knew someone who might be. I was thrilled when she agreed to do it.ka_381

“Not only am I over the top about how great it turned out, it was a pleasure to get to know her and work with her on this special project. I am looking forward to any future knitting projects that may come up so we can work together again.”

I know I was over the top when I saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Hopefully you will be too, and you may even find yourself wanting a handmade Charlie Brown sweater from Elaine Liner! If you do, get this, Elaine has agreed to knit one more to support the cause of great productions for children via a DCT auction. Just go to dct.org/bid and put your name in the hat…or in this case, the sweater!

 

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ THE NUTCRACKER run through December 21.

Highly Recommended:  A fun, family, festive day at Dallas Children’s Theater(DCT)

As told by Mom Blogger Sherry Ward

chris-and-adam-with-tix-to-the-nutcracker-please-crop-out-fire-extinguisherMy family and I were able to spend an unforgettable day kicking off the holidays at DCT by attending both holiday productions! Each show is about an hour in length which made for a perfect “mixed nuts” outing with one show featuring both the Peanuts Gang and the other, the timeless Nutcracker.  We started off with THE NUTCRACKER. As we walked into the lobby, we were immediately greeted by a ten-foot tall Nutcracker who asked my boys, Chris (11) and Adam (7) to give him a high five. They were immediately ready for some fun!

We went into the Robyn Flatt Studio Theater to take our seats for THE NUTCRACKER. Chris was a little apprehensive about how close we were to the stage, so his Granny Pat took him out to see the display cases with the puppets so he would know they were not going to be frighteningly large. Of course once the lights go down, they look so much larger due to the magic of the black theater.

The laughter started right off. chris-and-adam-meet-the-puppets-and-the-puppeteersThis was my first time to see Kathy Burks’ Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ adaptation of THE NUTCRACKER, and I must admit that as an adult, I was drawn in by all of the surprises. I wasn’t prepared for how much physical humor could be created using puppets! The boys also loved the voices. They both laughed out loud throughout, especially during the battles with the Mouse King. I don’t want to give too much away, but we all loved the show and were so excited to meet the puppets in the lobby afterwards.

Adam is due to go see THE NUTCRACKER ballet on a field trip later this month, and not only did he get a short (and funny) lesson on the writing of the ballet (as expressed by puppet Tchaikovsky himself), but he also got a condensed and super-kid-friendly puppet version that will help him follow the ballet so much better!

the-ward-family-with-santa-at-dctBefore the production of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, we took some time to visit Santa in the lobby. He was as kind and jolly as you would expect of Santa, and Adam had plenty of time to give him an exhaustive list, including what he wanted to eat for Christmas dinner! Santa got him giggling just by being his charming self. Santa was gracious enough to let me sit on his lap as well!

Our day continued with A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. I went in very familiar with the TV special, but the boys were experiencing it for the first time. We had fallen in love with a couple of the actors, Christopher Curtis and Steph Garrett when we saw SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL earlier this fall, but they wergranny-pat-and-adam-reading-about-the-actors-in-the-programe almost too cute to handle in this production. Charlie Brown was round-headed perfection, and we were sitting where we could see him up close as he pondered the meaning of Christmas.

All of us were smiling from beginning to end with several hearty laughs throughout. It was as if I were watching the Christmas special come to life before my eyes, and for the boys, it was personifying Christmas and giving it meaning in a way they could understand.

After the show, Adam went directly to Charlie Brown’s line and was thrilled to adam-meets-charlie-brownmeet him in person. It was the best day we could imagine.  From nutcrackers to peanuts, our day of mixed nuts was a perfect way to start off our holiday season. We had plenty of time for our two-show day, with no rushing from one to another. In the midst of the hurried holiday season, I encourage everyone to take a day to relax with your family and spend time creating great memories at the theater. Of course, now my sons are expecting me to get the tree up right away, so be forewarned… DCT knows how to create the holiday spirit!

Note:  The tallest Nutcracker a child has ever seen and Santa made a special appearance November 18 – November 27. They will return on Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21.  Buy your tickets now!

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KATHY BURKS THEATRE OF PUPPETRY ARTS’

THE NUTCRACKER
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Adapted for the stage by B. Wolf

Now – December 21, 2016
Recommended for ages 4 and up

Purchase Tickets

 

 

RUDOLPH 11.18X17.8 SITTING.epsA CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
by Charles M. Schulz
Based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson
Stage Adaptation by Eric Schaeffer
By Special Arrangement with Arthur Whitelaw and Ruby Persson

Now – December 21, 2016
Recommended for ages 5 and up

Purchase Tickets

 

Meet the Puppeteers – Kathy, Bea, Becky, and Trish

We’re continuing our celebration of the 20th anniversary since the first time Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts (KBTPA) performed its acclaimed interpretation of The Nutcracker at DCT. These four incredibly talented artists fondly look back at their favorite Nutcracker memories.

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Kathy Burks – with Tchaikovsky and The Little Puppeteer (from THE NUTCRACKER)

What influenced KBTPA’s unique interpretation of The Nutcracker?

“… I really enjoyed working with Bea [Wolf, the playwright and music director] to put THE NUTCRACKER together to be able to remind people who Tchaikovsky was, and still is to all of us. He’s wonderful…We just interpreted the music in a way that might be fun for puppets to do and for those people that are watching it. So it’s a brand new way of hearing the music and interpreting the music and relating it in a slightly different way.”

bea_wolf

Bea Wolf – with Musical Sheets (from The Nutcracker)

As a musician yourself, what part of the show do you particularly enjoy?

“One thing that stands out is the prologue, which tells about how Tchaikovsky wrote the ballet.  One of our characters, The Little Puppeteer, interrupts and asks “just how long do you intend to speak to Tchaikovsky?” and two of my musician friends who were in the audience just fell out laughing. That was so satisfying to me because musicians especially appreciate that kind of thing.”

becky_burks_keenan

Becky Burks Keenan – with Piglet and King (from THE FROG PRINCE)

What is one of your most memorable audience reactions to the show?

“The funniest reaction I got, and I enjoyed doing it so much, was the poodle’s feet. He starts out very graceful and slow, and then there’s a certain point in the music where he twiddles and he twiddles really fast across the stage. That always gets a big laugh, so I enjoyed doing that part. The kids always talked about the poodle and his feet, so I was able to say, “I did the feet!””

trish_long

Trish Long – with Frog (from The FROG PRINCE)

What else should audiences know ahead of time before they come see the show?

“The neat thing to me is that we frequently still have so many generations come back, and they meet us in the lobby and they’ll say, “My mother brought me, [and now] I’m bringing my daughter.” Or the grandmother will be there. The grandmother will say, “I brought my daughter. Now she’s bringing her daughter, my granddaughter.” That’s the really neat part of it, people should be prepared to make it a family tradition.”

 

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nutcracker

KATHY BURKS THEATRE OF PUPPETRY ARTS’

THE NUTCRACKER

Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Adapted for the stage by B. Wolf

November 18 – December 21, 2016

Recommended for ages 4 and up

 

No holiday season is complete without Tchaikovsky’s THE NUTCRACKER! This unique and acclaimed puppet interpretation brings the classic story to life with innovative passion and artistry. According to The Dallas Morning News, this NUTCRACKER “…out-Fantasia’s Walt Disney’s classic film.” DFW audiences love holiday traditions, and that is why 2016 marks 20 years of this most requested title. It’s a perfect introduction to classical music, so make a date to bring your children!

Buy Tickets Now

 

 

 

Images by Craig Lynch

THE NUTCRACKER is produced by special arrangement with the playwright.

 

Meet the Puppeteers – Sally, Doug, and Ziggy starring in THE NUTCRACKER

This holiday season, we’re proudly celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first time Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts (KBTPA) performed its acclaimed, unique interpretation of The Nutcracker at DCT. Meet the puppeteers who magically transform the Studio Theater into the Land of the Sweets with incredible skill and artistry. 

sally

Sally Fiorello – with Medoro the dancing poodle, Harlequin, and Clara

What are some of your favorite memories of KBTPA’s THE NUTCRACKER over the past 20 years?

“There are young people who saw this show when we first did it…and they have continued to come back with their families to see it year after year… And I have watched them grow, and I have watched them come up and say how much they loved the show and they look forward to seeing it every time we do it. And now…they want to introduce the Nutcracker that we do to their kids. And whenever that happens, I’m always reminded of how special it is.”

doug

Doug Burks – with Herr Drosselmeier and Genie

What audience reactions stand out to you?

“What I remember about the audience is mostly just the wonder and the awe of it all, especially in the second half of the show when we go to the Land of the Sweets and all that music, all that familiar music, and just to hear their reactions, especially the big school groups that come in. Just as a whole, they just become one fascinated body of people all reacting simultaneously; that’s a really rewarding thing to hear.”

ziggy

Ziggy Renner – Little Puppeteer and The Nutcracker

What do you most look forward to in performing the show again this year?

“We all at least to some extent have seen the ballet or seen parts of the ballet or we know the music because we hear it so much during the holiday season. It’s just ingrained in the back of our heads that when you hear this song, you have an image. And the image is changed with this [show], to a certain extent…It’s so well done, and just different. And to get to do the whole thing is pretty exciting.”

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nutcracker

KATHY BURKS THEATRE OF PUPPETRY ARTS’

THE NUTCRACKER

Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Adapted for the stage by B. Wolf

November 18 – December 21, 2016

Recommended for ages 4 and up

 

No holiday season is complete without Tchaikovsky’s THE NUTCRACKER! This unique and acclaimed puppet interpretation brings the classic story to life with innovative passion and artistry. According to The Dallas Morning News, this NUTCRACKER “…out-Fantasia’s Walt Disney’s classic film.” DFW audiences love holiday traditions, and that is why 2016 marks 20 years of this most requested title. It’s a perfect introduction to classical music, so make a date to bring your children!

Buy Tickets Now

THE NUTCRACKER is produced by special arrangement with the playwright.

 

A Sensory Show You Won’t Want to Miss featuring The Cat in the Hat, JoJo, Horton and Palmer…

Imagine for a second, that you’re a parent to a brand new baby. But your excitement and joy are overcome by worry and concern, because your beautiful baby was born at only 24 weeks, weighs only 1 lb 4 oz, and is on life support. You have numerous surgeries and procedures ahead of you, and all that leads to sensory challenges and sensitivities for the rest of your baby’s life.For Palmer and his mother, Lisa Lee, this is reality. But his sensitivities to loud noises and bright lights aren’t stopping Palmer from anything.

1As a young boy, Palmer and his mother were Ambassadors for March of Dimes. They traveled around Texas sharing his story and his struggles to help raise awareness for the research and medical advances that helped save his life. Lisa would tell his story, and then bring him up on stage so the audience could see how well he was doing. “His first appearance was at 1 ½ years old. Once he had the microphone, he didn’t want to put it down. He even clapped along with the audience back then!” said Lee.

At 3-years-old, Palmer began memorizing Dr. Seuss’s books, and even dressed up as The Cat in the Hat for Halloween when he was 8. “He would dress up in costume and act out different scenes from [Dr. Seuss’s] books with his Seuss stuffed animals,” said Lee. “Drama is his favorite class in school.” Now as a 16-year-old student at Oak Hill Academy, Palmer has participated in the talent show and school plays for the past nine years.

Lee heard about DCT as a great place for kids to see musicals from her brother and nephew. While they were attending a traditional show, Lee heard about the sensory-friendly shows. “Palmer always wore headphones to the movies when he wa2s younger to block out the excessive noise, but with the sensory-friendly shows at DCT, that hasn’t been an issue because they keep the sound levels lower than regular performances,” Lee said. Over the years, they have attended 15 shows at DCT, including five sensory-friendly performances.

The family was ecstatic when they learned that DCT would begin offering Academy classes for youth with autism, Down syndrome, sensory processing disorders, and other special needs. During the summer of 2016, Palmer and 16 other students enrolled in the Blue Pegasus Players program. Six professional teaching artists guided the students through exercises designed to enhance individual creativity and increase their understanding of the elements of theater.

“It’s been so great for Palmer to be a part of these drama classes. Feeling included is priceless. Sometimes when you have learning differences or sensory issues, you don’t fit in a traditional class, so this has helped his confidence and given him a ch3ance to do something he loves with his peers,” said Lee.

At the end of the summer, Academy students put on a showcase performance for parents, and Palmer chose to sing a song from SEUSSICAL™—which happens to be the first show in DCT’s 2016-2017 lineup. Nancy Schaeffer is the director of that show, and the Education Director at DCT, and saw an opportunity to create a different kind of theater magic.

Rehearsal time is precious for actors, but Schaeffer knew the SEUSS cast being treated to an exclusive special performance from Palmer was a moment not to be missed. So, she invited him to sing after a rehearsal in mid September. The cast, including two of Palmer’s teachers from summer classes, looked on and listened in awe.

Palmer touts the sensory-friendly offerings at DCT, saying “I have always loved coming to the shows at DCT and the sensory shows make it more comfortable for me. And now I love being in drama classes at DCT too and getting to be on stage!”

Palmer will return to the DCT stage on October 15, after the sensory-friendly performance to sing his song for the audience.

Learn more about DCT’s sensory-friendly shows here and sensory classes here.

Why we all go Who-Who over Seuss!

Dr. Seuss is a household name. So much so that when I just misspelled “Suess,” my computer knew to correct me. Dr. Seuss. So much so that in the middle of summer, my seven-year-old still insists on reading How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, explaining that the Grinch thought Christmas was all about presents. Dr. Seuss’s bouncing words are encrypted with life lessons that have resonated with generations of children. But don’t take my word for it. I’ve visited with a few Seuss experts, and I’d like to share what they had to say.

My former boss, Pet1er Brosius, is Artistic Director of Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis.  Long the only theatre in the U.S.A. with permission to develop original productions based on his works, CTC has a special relationship with Dr. Seuss. Peter explains, “CTC has been attracted to the work of Dr. Seuss since the beginning. He revolutionized children’s literature and challenged young people to thrill at the power of their own imaginations. It has been a pleasure to celebrate the insights, the humanity, and the incredible wit of Dr. Seuss by sharing his work with thousands of theatergoers over our 50 years.”

Second graders from DISD a2re going to be coming to see SEUSSICAL™ this season, along with many other students. It felt only natural to talk to a teacher about Dr. Seuss, and the impact his work has on students.

Aaron Richards, Music Director at Kleberg Elementary in DISD was all too happy to share his thoughts. Mr. Richards shared, “Dr. Seuss teaches lifelong lessons such as: how to take care of the environment, being yourself, it’s okay to be different, we all have different, yet amazing paths in life.”

Those are intense lessons, you know?

Mr. Richards is excited about bringing his students to see SEUSSICAL™ at Dallas Children’s Theater. He continues, “The stories and characters are silly, strange and interesting!  They even entertain adults! MY music students will get to practice their audience etiquette and enjoy a different type of show than they are used to!  I hope they enjoy the music, costumes and story.”

Finally, of course, we had to talk to a parent. My friend Kim Lyle is bringing her daughter to see SEUSSICAL™, so I thought of her first when I needed to talk to a parent expert.

Kim says,3 “Anna loves the rhythm of Dr. Seuss. The silly words and the active drawings. I remember reading Green Eggs and Ham a lot when I was a kid. I feel like I can recite that one without reading the words. I really love doing voices for all the different characters in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. It’s like an acting exercise, and she enjoys hearing me be silly. She just got into Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, and it starts conversations about being alone and possibly lost and finding your own way. We talk about being independent and brave.”

I asked Kim if she was excited about bringing Anna to SEUSSICAL™ and she quickly responded, “ABSOLUTELY! She can’t wait for her next show. I love to see her face, her eyes when she sees the lights and the costumes. She’s transported. If it’s anything like previous shows, we’ll likely have to buy the soundtrack! I want it to spark conversation and new ideas in her little head, and I know it will.”

Well, there you have it, in case there was any doubt, Dr. Seuss is a rock star. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, incidentally, is the yearly theme at my seven-year-old’s elementary school. The whole building is filled with Dr. Seuss, and it’s never felt like a happier place. SEUSSICAL™ is going to make DCT a happier place, if that’s possible. Make sure you bring your kids to see it now through October 23. Then, prepare yourself for a fantastical ride home!

Seussical

 

For ticket information, go to dct.org

 

 

 

 

A Musical Look at SEUSSICAL™ by Pam Holcomb-McLain

Dr. Seuss’s characters and rhyming style are unique and recognizable, even when they move off the page and onto the stage in SEUSSICAL™. The 2016-2017 season opener is filled with songs just as catchy as Dr. Seuss’s beloved stories. We asked Pam Holcomb-McLain, the show’s musical director, to explain how different styles of music best express the attitudes of the characters. Read on to see Pam’s thoughts.

If you like musiccast-in-action

That rocks or swings,

Sambas or sways,

Speaks or sings;

If you like Gospel

Or music more blue,

DCT’s SEUSSICAL™ has something for YOU!

Seussical the Musical originally opened on Broadway during the 2000-2001 season. At that time, the Associated Press praised the songs in the show for having “Snappy lyrics and lively music, embracing everything from Broadway ballads to Motown to swing to Latin to John Philip Sousa.” Since then, the show
lj107770shas been reworked into a streamlined, 75-minute musical for young audiences. The show is now one of the most produced shows in America, performed by schools and theatres, amateurs and professionals alike. One of the (many) strengths of this reworked version of the musical is that it maintains the musical diversity and integrity of the original Broadway production.

The opening number, “Oh the Thinks You Can Think,” is an energetic song and dance number that introduces the audience to the entire cast. At times when the show focuses on characters living together in the Jungle of Nool, drum beats and repetitive melodies accompany the action. When the residents of both Whoville and the Jungle of Nool appear in a climactic scene in a courtroom…let’s just say things get spiritual in a powerful, Gospel number.

Audiences will also see that many of the characters attitudes are best expressed by different musical styles. For instance, Cat in the Hat’s songs gravitate toward
lj106523jazz and vaudeville sounds. Horton the Elephant, on the other hand, expresses his thoughts through heartfelt ballads. The Whos in Whoville prefer to sing along to fun, carnival-inspired music, complete with calliope. A calliope (KAL-ee-ohp) is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending gas, steam, or compressed air through large whistles. These instruments are typically very loud; even a small calliope can be heard from miles away. And little JoJo’s imagination soars during the song “It’s Possible,” as the music grows and grows until it ends in with Beach Boys-style sound straight from the 1960s.

ahrens-and-flaherty-photo-from-website-press-kitThe prolific songwriting team of Stephen Flaherty, who writes the music, and Lynn Ahrens, who writes the lyrics, are responsible for Seussical’s score as well as its book. The strength of Flaherty’s musical compositions is matched by Ahrens’ clever lyrics, which blend seamlessly with Dr. Seuss’s original work. The effect of combining highly stylized music with ingenious lyrics are songs that invite, entertain and narrate to audiences of all ages the importance of imagination and friendship, especially in difficult circumstances.

Other widely known musicals that Flaherty and Ahrens have written include Lucky Stiff, Once on This Island, and Ragtime. They are currently adapting the animated Disney movie Anastasia for the stage.

With so many different styles of music in one play, there is surely a sound that will please everyone’s ears. Many thanks to Pam Holcomb-McLain, the Musical Director of SEUSSICAL™, for talking with us about the soundtrack of the show. We can’t wait to see you at SEUSSICAL™!

For ticket information to Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of SEUSSICAL, go to dct.org. TONY Award photo of Ahrens and Flaherty: Photo by Anita and Steve Shevette.

One Fish, Two Fish. Nancy Schaeffer—Who’s this?

Before the opening of the first show of the season, we talked with Nancy Schaeffer, the director of SEUSSICAL™, to learn more about the show.

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Q: Give me 3 words to describe Seussical.

A: Three words I’d use to describe it are beautiful, meaningful, and joyful. Describing in a sentence using three words I’d say, every person counts.

Q: What do you like most about Seussical?

A: It’s hard to choose just one thing. I love the music, but I love the characters the most. I love stories that have interesting characters, like most people do, and this show is full of them. They each have their own little egos, their own personas.

Q: What experience are you trying to create for audiences?

A: Any time I direct a show, the purpose is to create an experience that just completely captivates the audience. Something that makes them feel like they’re a part of the journey just by being in the theater and going through the adventure with the actors. I want every audience to feel like we did all this just for them.

Q: What is it like being a director?

A: Sometimes it’s like being a parent: you give these actors and technicians everything you can and then they have to go do it. It’s like sending kids to school for the first time; the play has to live its life. People also ask me questions that I just don’t know the answers to, and instead of acting like I know everything, I just tell them “I’ll find that out for you,” or “What do you think?”

Q: How have you seen theater change someone’s life?

A: The pursuit of anryan-goldblattything you love, the pursuit of what brings you joy is always life changing. I talk to my casts about the fact that you never know who is in the audience or what they’re going through. It’s our job to provide a moment of happiness and that’s both a gift and a huge responsibility. A perfect example of that is Ryan Goldblatt, who saw HOW I BECAME A PIRATE and loved it. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after. Now his mother has a great relationship with us all because her son had a good time at the theater.

Q: What’s your favorite children’s story? Why?

A: Oh here’s a funny memory, one with my cousin, about the first book I ever learned to read. The first book I learned to read was, funny enough, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. But my cousin always teased me, she’d say, “Oh well you just memorized the words.” And I’d say, “Yeah. And?” We always teased each other like that. And now instructing people who memorize stories is my job!

Creating powerful work on stage can be challenging, but it is so rewarding for artists. Especially when it has the power to help shy children open up or bring someone in the audience a moment of joy. We hope you’ll look for a moment of joy with us, at a performance of SEUSSICAL™. Visit dct.org/plays for show times and more information.

For Dallas Children’s Theater, the main ingredients are the art and the artists…

ka_367As DCT was preparing for the 2015-2016 season, we all knew that Kate DiCamillo’s story THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE would be special. It’s simple but relevant story resonated with so many of us in an enduring and powerful way. This weekend, the DFW Critics agreed. In fact, DCT received several Dallas Fort Worth Theatre Critics Forum Awards for the 15-16 season, and our team of artists are to be congratulated!

This season, 2016-2017, our theme is Me, the Recipe. We are challenging our young patrons to discover the key ingredients that go into the development of the greatest masterpiece there is…a living, breathing, happy, human being. When we think about the key ingredients that make Dallas Children’s Theater what it is today, there’s no question that it is the vision of the creative artists in bringing works like EDWARD TULANE to life. Each year, a group of Dallas Fort Worth Theatre Critics name the best of the best out of the hundreds of productions they attended at theatres throughout DFW in the previous season. This process requires a great deal of deliberation, but as TheaterJones said, “…we did agree on many things, such as…how much Dallas Children’s Theater’s THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE made us bawl.”­­­­

Today we honor our own Associate Artistic Director, Artie Olaisen, for receiving an award for Outstanding Direction for EDWARD TULANE, and the five actors who received the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble. The actors: Sonny Franks, Johnny Lee, Steph Garrett, Georgia Clinton, and Haulston Mann played 26 characters encountered by Edward, a toy rabbit, on his journey. Of course Artie acknowledged, “We consider our exquisite design team as part of our ‘ensemble’ in this piece.”

_ka16774More than 200 local artists were a part of the Dallas Children’s Theater stage last year, serving as key ingredients to a wonderful season. We salute them all, and we thank DFW Critics for recognizing Artie and the EDWARD TULANE team, along with Dallas favorite Janelle Lutz who received an award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress for her portrayal of Doris in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, along with other memorable performances this season.

Finally, under the award section for “Special Citations,” the Critics called out Dallas Children’s Theater for providing sensory-friendly performances for kids with sensory sensitivities. This program, which began in 2014 and received funding from The Crystal Charity Ball to broaden its reach, is one that we are most proud of for the impact it has had on children with autism, Down Syndrome, and other sensory sensitivities. DCT receives positive feedback from families all the time for this program, and we are so grateful for the recognition by the DFW theatre community.

This has been a big year for us, and we have no intention on slowing down! We always appreciate the feedback we receive from critics – our professional theater colleagues, and of course our audience. We look forward to kicking off another great season, and we hope you will secure your seat at the table as we cook up something special, memorable and noteworthy of award.

5 Practical Skills Kids Learn at the Theater

At an early age, parents support their children joining sports teams because that will develop athletic ability and a sense of teamwork. They encourage their children to study so they can be smart and successful in this competitive world. Parents even put their kids in acting classes so they can become confident public speakers or maybe convincing actors. Each of these activities has lots of differences in practice; but one thing they have in common is that they teach soft skills. And, like common sense; the ability to deal with people; and having a flexible attitude; they don’t depend on knowledge someone acquires in a traditional classroom.

DCT image 1Research shows that soft skills are the most sought after skills by employers. Cameron Evans, US Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, says, “Employers are looking for employees who are creative and possess empathy.”

Here are 5 skills your child will learn by participating in educational theater at Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) this school year:

  1. Focus –  A father was once cast in a show at DCT, and because of the family dynamic, his son had to tag along to rehearsals. The father was nervous, because his son already wasn’t doing well in school, and he thought the experience would prove boring for the son and in the end a bad idea for the actor who needs to concentrate. But the director of the show found a way to engage the child by making him a junior cast member.  Researchers1 have found that students who consistently participate in the arts see improvements in academic performance. A year later, the father shared with DCT, “I don’t know what happened, but after that experience, he went from C’s to A’s and B’s.” Spoiler alert: he learned to focus on one task at a time!
  1. Cultural competence – Research shows that students participating in educational theater are more tolerant towards both minorities and foreigners2. Theater enables kids to learn about new cultures by looking at them in an entertaining, nonjudgmental way. “Part of being human is relating to and communicating with other people. If you don’t develop the part of yourself that recognizes other people and cultures, and where they’re coming from, you’ll miss out,” says Robyn Flatt, co-founder of DCT.
  1. Critical thinking – We’ve all walked in on our kids playing with theirDCT image 2 toys; making up voices for dolls and action figures or creating super powers for blocks. “Creative people put spotlights on things that seem simple, but suddenly have all kinds of interesting qualities and textures we never noticed before,” said Robyn Flatt. DCT has classes for kids as young as 3.5 to practice creating stories and characters who go through conflicts and find resolutions.
  1. Social Skills – Until voice boxes are obsolete and computers become humans, kids must engage others through words, not tablets. Theater develops social skills. It helps kids comprehend the messages others are sending, and how to best express themselves to others.
  1. Empathy – Characters in kids’ TV shows have strange appearances and habits, and kids are into that. If you want them to meet people who are unique in that way, send them to the theater. “Theater is like a gym for empathy. It’s where we go to practice listening, understanding, and engaging with people that are not like ourselves,” says Bill English, co-founder of San Francisco Playhouse. Send your kids to a different kind of gym—one for the world’s zaniest, nerdiest, and most earnest people.

At Dallas Children’s Theater, we aim to inspire creative growth in all areas of life by encouraging students to explore their own experiences through the lenses of space, movement, color, and rhythm. What better time than the beginning of a new school year to introduce new skills, new friends, and new experiences to your child. All under the umbrella of having fun.

DCT Seuss PhotoGive it a try: Come watch SEUSSICAL™ at DCT, playing from September 16-23. This fantastical musical adventure is based on a collection of stories by
Dr. Seuss, and features hilarious characters like Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, and Mayzie LaBird. They are your guides through the Jungle of Nool, Circus McGurkus, and the tiny world of Whoville! Discover what it takes for Horton to withstand ridicule and danger to save the day. Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Be sure to follow Dallas Children’s Theater on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the latest info on plays and classes.

 

 

  1. Dr. James Catterall from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education conducted a study of 25,000 students involved in the arts
  2. DICE Report (Drama Improves Lisbon Key Competencies in Education, 2010)