Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

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)

On Being the Mayor of Whoville…

mayor-blog-text

The poor Who Mayor had big troubles for sure,
Although his whole planet was miniature.

A little man running a family and planet,
Which other Who parents just took for granted.

Whoville’s always been small, but not due to shrinking.
The Mayor’s real woe was that his son JoJo was Thinking!

His thinks were abnormal, so big and fantastic,
The Mayor was ready to do something drastic.

Then JoJo saved his small town with a Yopp
Then Mayor realized he was a super proud Pop.

He learned not to question this affinity to Think,
And instead decided they work better in sync.

No Think is wrong, no dream or idear.
It’s how small folks let us know they are here. _____________________________________________

Single tickets on sale!

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See Horton and his amazing friends come to Dallas Children’s Theater.

SeussicalSEUSSICAL™
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss

September 16 – October 23, 2016

Recommended for ages 5 and up

“Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters collide suessand cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, JoJo, and others are your guides in this fantastical, magical exploration of family and friendship 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 in this cornucopia of adventure that truly offers something for everyone!

Tickets and more information at dct.org

The voices heard from Whoville…

horton6

In big crowds at school or even at home,
in this huge universe, we can still feel alone.

Like Horton and JoJo, we must understand,
it’s okay and it shows strength to reach out for a helping hand.

SEUSSICAL™ sings through fear and gloom
until we can find some happy, safe room.

Remember there’s always a listening ear
when we stand up and shout, “We are here, we are here, we are here!”

_____________________________________________

Single tickets on sale today!

button

See Horton and his amazing friends come to Dallas Children’s Theater.

SeussicalSEUSSICAL™
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss

September 16 – October 23, 2016

Recommended for ages 5 and up

“Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters collide suessand cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, JoJo, and others are your guides in this fantastical, magical exploration of family and friendship 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 in this cornucopia of adventure that truly offers something for everyone!

Tickets and more information at dct.org

So many thinks…

 

unnamed (5)
They think Horton’s crazy for how much he protects
the tiny town on the teeny speck.

But Horton is smart with a head full of thinks
and great resilience when tested and pushed to the brink.

Our dreams are like clovers that need lots of nurture
to get to the places where we’re inspired to go further.

SEUSSICAL™ teaches us lots about life,
but perhaps most of all —
a person’s a person no matter how small.

_________________________________________

See Horton and his amazing friends come to Dallas Children’s Theater.

Single tickets go on sale Monday, August 1.

 

SEUSSICAL™
Music by Stephen FlahertySeussical
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss

September 16 – October 23, 2016

Recommended for ages 5 and up

“Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters collide suessand cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, JoJo, and others are your guides in this fantastical, magical exploration of family and friendship 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 in this cornucopia of adventure that truly offers something for everyone!

Tickets and more information at dct.org 

Getting to know Dr. Seuss’s Horton the Elephant

 

who-is-horton

 

Some say Horton’s a fool – slow and naive as can be.
His compassion is for small things that others cannot see.

But you won’t meet an elephant with thinks so absurd;
who’s still faithful and loyal and true to his word!

For an egg in a tree and a speck on a clover,
Horton’s friendship will triumph over and over.

SEUSSICAL™ is a musical place to see
friendship in action the way it should be.

___________________________________________________

 

See Horton and his amazing friends come to Dallas Children’s Theater.

Single tickets go on sale Monday, August 1.

 

SEUSSICAL™

Music by Stephen FlahertySeussical
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss

September 16 – October 23, 2016

Recommended for ages 5 and up

suess“Oh, the thinks you can think” when Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters collide and cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie LaBird, JoJo, and others are your guides in this fantastical, magical exploration of family and friendship 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 in this cornucopia of adventure that truly offers something for everyone!

Tickets and more information at dct.org

This Pinkalicious “Favorite Color” Quiz Just Might Rock Your World?!

“The next morning when I woke up, I was PINK! My face was pink, my hands were pink, and my belly was the color of a sunset… I cried because I was so beautiful. I even had PINK tears.”

-Pinkalicious Pinkerton, on waking up and seeing that her skin had turned her favorite color

Seeing PnewpinkINKALICIOUS on stage with her passion for the color pink reminds me just how powerful color really is in our lives. We, like the characters in the play, all have our favorites, don’t we?

Pinkalicious’ brother, Peter, likes to wear blue clothes. Because Dr. Wink is a doctor, she knows how healthy green foods are. And though Pinkalicious’ best friend, Alison, also loves the color pink, she turns a bit red when she and Pinkalicious get into a disagreement.

 

There are so many beautiful colors in the world, and while Pinkalicious’ favorite color is obvious, we wondered about the colors you relate to. So, with the help of playbuzz.com, a site where anyone can develop a qPINKALICIOUS 2016uiz, we’ve developed a fun, non-scientific, seven question quiz to spark your colorful musings. No matter if you are red, pink, blue, green, or even yellow at heart—we’re curious to know what the quiz results turned up for you. So, take this fun quiz, and then leave a comment telling us if we guessed right!

 

Click here to see if we can guess your favorite color.

Robyn Flatt Honored by American Alliance for Theatre and Education for Contributions to Theatre for Young Audiences

RobynHeadshot'11Robyn Flatt, Co-Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT), has been awarded the prestigious Orlin Corey Award for Artistic Excellence from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). Flatt has directed and championed the development of over 200 productions of plays for young people, a milestone artistic achievement and contribution to theatre for young audiences. She will be presented with the award at the AATE National Conference in Boston in late July 2016.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my work in the arts community, and my work with children in particular,” said Flatt. “Inspiring young people through different theater experiences has been a gift to me, and I am truly proud to be able to use my love of this amazing art form to inspire creativity in children.”

Flatt has extensive experience with both theater and education.  She was the Assistant Artistic Director and Director of Theater-in-the-Parks during her tenure as a member of the resident company at Dallas Theater Center from the early 1960’s to the early 80’s. in the 70’s and early 80’s. For more than 30 years at DCT, she has fostered a close relationship between theater and education by making both a priority in all of the theater’s programming.

Most recently, Flatt has been championing DCT SHOWTIME, a program made possible by a grant from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs Cultural Vitality Program. This program is an opportunity for kids who have had scarce experience with the arts to meet and learn from professional actors and get a preview of an upcoming show.  DCT staff and actors go on the road to area Dallas Public Libraries and other community meeting places. Actors arrive in costume with props from a DCT mainstage production and perform selected scenes before encouraging children to touch and ask questions about props, costumes, and things they noticed the actors say and do.

Flatt also developed Curtains Up On Reading, a highly successful program for integrating the arts into core curriculum in Dallas area schools. As part of this immersive program, DCT teaching artists travel to local elementary and middle schools to use elements of the arts to help children who may be struggling with the traditional teaching of math, history, English or other subjects. Research wholeheartedly supports such an approach, particularly for children of color and those with learning differences.

As a professional actor, director, and lighting designer in Dallas, Flatt has directed many major works in the youth theater canon including To Kill A Mockingbird, And Then They Came For Me, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Miracle Worker. She has also pushed for creation of five world premiere musical adaptations of books by internationally renowned author/illustrator Steven Kellogg, including his popular titles The Island of the Skog, The Three Sillies, and Pinkerton!. To increase appreciation and understanding of the racial diversity in Dallas, she has encouraged the development of and directed new scripts including Mariachi Girl, Anansi the Spiderman, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daugthers, and The Rememberer.

Flatt served on the board of AATE (Vice President/1998-2001) and ASSITEJ/USA (TYA/USA) from 1995-2001. She was inducted into the college of Fellows for the Southwest Theater Association in 1999 and the College of Fellows of American Theater in 2007 (serving on its Executive Committee for two years). She joined the Board of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America in 2003 and served as Treasurer for six years.

Orlin Corey Award for Artistic Excellence

This award celebrates the full spectrum of artists in the field, including, but not limited to, directors, designers, actors, choreographers, composers, puppeteers and videographers. It honors  a particular artistic achievement or a unique artistic contribution to theatre for young audiences. It can be presented at any time in an artist’s career.

About AATE

AATE, among the most recognized arts education organizations, works to ensure that every young person experiences quality theatre arts in their lives provided by proficient, talented artists and educators. AATE is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Through its membership of theatre artists, inservice and pre-service teachers, professors, directors, scholars and playwrights, AATE serves more than a million students in 48 U.S. states and 19 countries worldwide.

About Dallas Children’s Theater

Dallas Children’s Theater features professional actors performing for an annual audience of 250,000 young people and their families through mainstage productions (12 in the 2015-16 season), a national touring company, and an arts-in-education program.  As the only major organization in Dallas focusing solely on youth and family theater, DCT builds bridges of understanding between generations and cultures, instilling an early appreciation of literature, art and the performing arts in tomorrow’s artists and patrons.