Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Does the name Mo Willems ring a bell? It should…

But what has Mo Willems done, besides write DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! THE MUSICAL!? Well…

From 1995-2001, Mo Willems was writing and animating on Sesame Street. He received six Emmy Awards as part of the writing team. He wrote a whole lot of Elmo’s World.

He is most popularly known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books and early readers series including: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, The Elephant & Piggie series, Knuffle Bunny, Knuffle Bunny Too, the Unlimited Squirrels series, Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Nanette’s Baguette, and Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.

This 15-episode series was released at the start of the 2020 pandemic, and was a valuable resource to families struggling to navigate isolation and big feelings. Mo Willems serves as the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence. Check them out here.

Mr. Warburton is a long-time friend and collaborator with Mo Willems. They’ve been working together off-and-on since Mo’s Sesame Street days. Mo tends to identify more with Elephant Gerald, and Mr. Warburton with the smiley Piggie. You might recognize some of their work, Codename: Kids Next Door.

Mr. Warburton’s animated series, Codename: Kids Next Door, featured Mo Willems as head writer for one of the award-winning episodes! The two also collaborated on several other animated series including Sheep in the Big City. Mo Willems has also featured Mr. Warburton in Don’t Let The Pigeon Finish this Activity Book!

Last, but not least… Mo Willems and              Mr. Warburton are the brilliant minds behind the DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! THE MUSICAL! That’s right! DCT’s musical is a collaboration between two close friends!


DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! THE MUSICAL!
Based on the book by Mo Willems
Published by Hyperion Books for Children
Script by Mo Willems & Mr. Warburton
Lyrics by Mo Willems
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Dramaturgy by Megan Alrutz
Directed by Nancy Schaeffer

January 28 – February 19
Ages 3 and up

The Pigeon is having a bit of an identity crisis – he never gets to do ANYTHING, and people just want him to “fly off”. Everything changes when the confident, cool Bus Driver rolls into town, and the Pigeon finds himself with a brand new goal: DRIVE THE BUS! But, is it even possible? Time to find out! Written by Mo Willems: creator of the #1 New York Times bestselling, Caldecott Honor award-winning Pigeon picture books…this zany show is ready to take audiences for the ride of their lives!

TITLE SPONSOR:


Image credits:
Mo Willems and Pigeon image:  Courtesy of HarperCollins
Sesame Street: Shutterstock
Mr. Warburton Images: warburtonlabs[dot]blogspot[dot]com
Mo Willems Characters: Art © Mo Willems. ELEPHANT & PIGGIE is a trademark of The Mo Willems Studio, Inc.
Lunch Doodles logo: kennedy-center[dot]org/education/mo-willems/lunch-doodles/CDM image: Courtesy of cartoonnetworkme[dot]com/show/codename-kids-next-door

DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! THE MUSICAL! produced through special arrangement with Music Theatre International www.MTIshows[dot]com.
Photo by: Karen Almond

Learn this holiday song before seeing DCT’s Harry Connick Jr.’s THE HAPPY ELF!

Be one of DCT’s holiday singing families!

Send us a video of you, your child, or your family in action!

 

 

 


Harry Connick, Jr.’s
THE HAPPY ELF
Music & Lyrics by Harry Connick, Jr.
Book by Lauren Gunderson & Andrew Fishman
Directed by K. Doug Miller

Now thru December 23
Ages 5 and up

From the Grammy–winning musician, Harry Connick, Jr…. this jazz musical is sure to get you in the holiday spirit! Eubie is, much to the exhaustion of his coworkers, an elf of unparalleled and endless energy looking to get a spot on Santa’s coveted sleigh team. When his unstoppably sunny spirit comes into contact with the miserable town of Bluesville – where every single child is on the naughty list – he’s in for the shock of a lifetime. Will his relentless positive attitude be enough to turn this gloomy place around, or has the happiest elf in the North Pole finally met his match?


Harry Connick, Jr.’s THE HAPPY ELF produced through special arrangement with Music Theatre International www.MTIshows[dot]com.
Photo by: Karen Almond


Spotlight on DCT’s Student Matinee Performance Series…

What is The Student Matinee Performance Series?

  • Each year, thousands of students take a field trip to DCT to see a show.
  • Some children are seeing a professional production for the very first time.
  • More than 75% come from schools located in areas rated as economically challenged.
  • DCT provides deep discounts for these tickets so that cost is not a barrier to them having this experience.
  • In Dallas, no other arts organization is able to provide a Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) aligned Fine Arts experience to the volume of children that DCT does every year.
“Every grade level at our school tries to attend a “fine arts” field trip and since I am the field trip coordinator for my grade level I always choose a theatrical performance. The kiddos sit in front of screens for too much of their lives and expect that to be the only form of entertainment when there is so much else out there. There are a lot of parents who do not take children to the theater whether because of cost or knowledge. I believe it is so important for kids to know about the theater and to develop an appreciation for the arts. Yes, we make sure we read the story to the students and connect it with the TEKS but my ultimate goal is that the students walk away excited about the idea of the theater.”
– Jessica Black, Ethridge Elementary
Photos by Lawrence Jenkins and DCT staff

See what others are saying about JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL!

The reviews are in…


Don’t wait! Only two shows remaining.

Listen up, I tell you! Junie B. Jones is back, and she’s got some advice to give…eventually. It was her brilliant idea to put together a survival guide for next year’s students, but now she’s at a total loss for what to add to it! It doesn’t help that all her friends are full of cool ideas and dance numbers. How’s a girl supposed to deal with all this competition? Hilariously, of course! In this musical extravaganza great for back-to-school time, Junie B. Jones learns some important lessons about school, patience, and personal growth. This play is perfect for fans of Junie B. and newcomers alike!

DCT’S LONGTIME LEADER TO RETIRE

As Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) approaches its fortieth (40th) anniversary season of providing high quality professional theater to children and families in North Texas, its founder, Robyn Flatt, has determined that now is the ideal time to secure new leadership in order to best position DCT for the organization’s next chapter. Effective upon the selection of a new executive director in 2023, Robyn Flatt will transition from her role as executive director and refocus her energies in service of the Baker Idea Institute, a special DCT initiative.

In communicating her decision to the Board of Trustees, Robyn Flatt paid homage to her father, Paul Baker, the founding director of Dallas Theater Center and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts when she said, “As you all know, thanks to my father, theater will forever be a part of the fabric of my life. It is what inspired me to take on what some said was the impossible mission of starting Dallas Children’s Theater in the early ‘80s. I am very proud that both he and I have been able to make significant contributions to the North Texas cultural landscape; contributions that I expect to continue for decades to come.”

Flatt co-founded DCT in 1984 with start-up funds of $500. Over the years, the theater presented shows and officed out of the old Withers Elementary building, El Centro Community College, and The Crescent Center when it was owned by Caroline Rose Hunt. Ms. Hunt, along with her daughter, Laurie Sands Harrison, were two of DCT’s earliest and most longstanding supporters. In the early 2000s, with the help of a strong board of community leaders, Flatt and the DCT team raised more than $14 million dollars to purchase and renovate the old Don Carter Bowling Alley on Northwest Highway and Skillman. Thanks to the generosity of loyal patrons, the 58,000 square foot facility is now owned mortgage-free. From its modest financial beginnings of $500, DCT has grown to a pre‑COVID annual budget of more than $4 million. The theater has twenty-seven (27) fulltime staff members, seventy-five (75) part-time employees and currently thirty‑nine (39) seasonal employees. DCT has served more than five (5) million children and families through a critically‑lauded annual season of plays and an arts-in-education school for children ages three-and-one-half (3.5) to eighteen (18). Pre-COVID, DCT also produced a sought-after national tour that traveled to thirty-one (31) cities and twenty-six (26) states each year. DCT is considered one of the leading professional family theaters in the nation.

Under Flatt’s leadership, DCT has always had a deliberate and visible commitment to diverse casting, culturally-specific plays, and using the power of theater to spark important conversations. Flatt’s own projects of note include YANA WANA’S LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET, a DCT‑commissioned play that provides a glimpse into the heritage of the indigenous, First People of Texas; John Steptoe’s MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS, an African-American Cinderella tale; AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME featuring the story of Eva Schloss and recounting scenes from the lives of Holocaust survivors during World War II; and 10 SECONDS, a play that demonstrates what can happen when young people and members of law enforcement take the time to consider their interactions with each other.  Flatt’s signature work was Harper Lee’s classic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD which she produced several times, and an innovative and collaborative production entitled TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined! that combined puppetry, circus arts, and movement.

DCT’s Board of Trustees is committed to a smooth leadership transition and has engaged Management Consultants for the Arts to conduct a national search for a new executive director. On Flatt’s announcement, Jim Markus, President of the Board expressed pride in his own long‑term association with both DCT and Flatt. Markus said, “Having originally joined DCT’s Board of Trustees over twenty-five (25) years ago, I am one of many theater-loving community volunteers who became inspired by Robyn’s leadership and the innovative programing being provided each year by DCT.  I have considered it a unique privilege, rather than a responsibility, to support this North Texas treasure.”

In November of 2020, DCT initiated an important first step in its succession plan when Nancy Schaeffer was elevated to the role of Artistic Director. Schaeffer’s association with DCT dates to its beginning days in 1984 when she was not only a leading actress in many productions, but also took on the administration of its fledgling school of theater classes. With her energy and expertise, DCT’s school has grown to become a highly sought-after Academy serving up to 4,000 students a year, and now includes a vibrant musical theater conservatory as well as the Blue Pegasus Players classes for children with sensory sensitivities.

Flatt plans to continue directing plays and will take on special projects as needed for Dallas Children’s Theater. She intends to devote much of her creative energy to a book and film about her father through the Baker Idea Institute, an incubator initiative for creative thinking and imagination in ways that benefit business, education, and individuals in general.

In addition to her leadership of DCT, Flatt’s sixty (60) year theatrical career has brought her acclaim as a professional director, actor, teacher, and lighting designer. She holds a MA degree from Baylor University and studied under Paul Baker, Juana Laban, and Hanya Holm. For 38 years, she has served on national boards including AATE, ASSITEJ/USA, and CTFA. She is a recipient of The 500, Inc.’s prestigious Ken Bryant Visionary Award, Dallas Historical Society’s 1999 Excellence in Community Service for Creative Arts, the 2002 Leon Rabin Standing Ovation Award, the AATE 2004 Sara Spencer Award, and the Excellence in Nonprofit Management Award. Flatt is a member of the College of Fellows of American Theatre. She was nominated by The Dallas Morning News arts staff for the Texan of the Year Award in both 2010 and 2015, and was honored in 2016 with the Orlin Corey Award for Artistic Excellence from the American Alliance for Theater and Education.

A round of applause for our very own Robyn Flatt!


Photo credits: Lawrence Jenkins, Joseph Haubert, DCT staff

All hail the Lizard Queen: Meet Junie B.’s nemesis – Tattletale May

Junie and May have never quite seen eye-to-eye…

May Murkee is a fellow first grader in Junie B.’s class. May seems to know just about every zoo animal there is to know, but can’t seem to remember to include the “B.” in Junie B.’s name. May and June might be right next to each other on the calendar, but you won’t catch these two similarly named girls sitting side-by-side anytime soon.

She and Junie B. often find themselves competing for attention in class. And outside of class. And, well, pretty much whenever they see each other. Junie B. struggles with her temper whenever May is around, and May only seems to get louder in response. Will these two girls ever be able to see past their differences? Find out in JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL!


Listen up, I tell you! Junie B. Jones is back, and she’s got some advice to give…eventually. It was her brilliant idea to put together a survival guide for next year’s students, but now she’s at a total loss for what to add to it! It doesn’t help that all her friends are full of cool ideas and dance numbers. How’s a girl supposed to deal with all this competition? Hilariously, of course! In this musical extravaganza great for back-to-school time, Junie B. Jones learns some important lessons about school, patience, and personal growth. This play is perfect for fans of Junie B. and newcomers alike!

Saturday, October 22, 1:30PM

Sunday, October 23, 1:30PM

Saturday, October 29, 1:30PM

Sunday, October 30, 1:30PM

Photos by Lawrence Jenkins
JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL produced through special arrangement with Music Theatre International www.MTIshows[dot]com.

Report Cards aren’t always easy – life lessons with Junie B.

1st grade is an eventful time…

In a pivotal scene in JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL, Junie B. attempts to bury her 1st grade report card under the neighbor’s begonias. She is immediately found out, and laments to her mother saying:

Junie B. has not had the perfect year. She’s learned that carpools are not real pools which created an embarrassing moment as she stood on the street in her inner tube as the school bus passed by. She was caught by Mrs. Principal making silly faces against the bus window and ended up getting lectured by Mr. Principal. She has carried a multitude of notes home from her teacher with requests including, but not limited to: “Please do not head butt the other students,” and “Please refrain from using the word stinkyhead.” Let’s just say the Needs Improvement in her report card is more than a little earned.

But Junie B.’s greatest challenge comes in the form of her temper. She describes it as a bull in her stomach named El Toro Fabuloso. This bull, in the musical, looks suspiciously similar to her school-supply-loving, tattletale classmate, May.

When Junie B.’s actions catch up to her, and leave her with those horrifying words on her report card, it’s a confirmation of all her fears. She’s a “bad” kid. She’s scared. She despairs. And…she learns a few things, too. Eventually, her mother comes clean and decides to show Junie her own childhood report card, and Junie B. is shocked to see a “Needs Improvement” clearly written there, too!


Listen up, I tell you! Junie B. Jones is back, and she’s got some advice to give…eventually. It was her brilliant idea to put together a survival guide for next year’s students, but now she’s at a total loss for what to add to it! It doesn’t help that all her friends are full of cool ideas and dance numbers. How’s a girl supposed to deal with all this competition? Hilariously, of course! In this musical extravaganza great for back-to-school time, Junie B. Jones learns some important lessons about school, patience, and personal growth. This play is perfect for fans of Junie B. and newcomers alike!

Saturday, October 15, 1:30PM
Sunday, October 16, 1:30PM
Sunday, October 16, 4:30PM
Saturday, October 22, 1:30PM
Sunday, October 23, 1:30PM
Saturday, October 29, 1:30PM
Sunday, October 30, 1:30PM

Photos by Lawrence Jenkins
JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL produced through special arrangement with Music Theatre International www.MTIshows[dot]com.

Helping Children Find Their Place in the World

DCT helps students like Campbell connect to their creativity!

Mom Stephanie shares Campbell’s experience at DCT:

“I don’t think I can count the number of activities we’ve quit.

Dance, soccer, Girl Scouts. The list is long, and finding the right fit for your child is an even lengthier process.

But for the past 10 weeks, Campbell has participated in an acting class. She wrote lines, she painted scenery, she came up with her character (appropriately named Uni-Kitty).

And today, she performed.

She got on stage with bright lights and lots of onlookers, and from the front row, I watched a little girl who used to speak only in scripts deliver a new kind of script with ease.

Today, I became an even bigger fan than I already was. Campbell/Uni-Kitty, you are a star.

I will always be cheering you on.

#autism #girlswithautism #autismmom”

Stephanie Hanrahan

North Texas Giving Day is tomorrow, and we ask you to consider what Dallas Children’s Theater means to your family and the community as a whole. Each donation makes an incredible difference and means the world to us!

Early giving is open now, so you can visit our page anytime to make your donation!
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Hanrahan

Inspiring Future Generations with Art and Representation

The magic of live theater is even more inspiring when we see ourselves onstage…and for actors, the experience goes both ways.

Actor Monalisa Amidar shares her experience on the DCT stage!

“Today on THE LION, THE WITCH, & THE WARDROBE’s opening day, we had over 300 second graders from 3 different Dallas ISD schools. Growing up in the Philippines, I didn’t have access to community theater, much less, professional theater. I later learned as an adult that, while it’s a tad more accessible now, theater arts as a recreational/leisurely activity in the Philippines is, to put it simply, something reserved mostly for the elites & those with existing connection to the arts. Back then in Manila, I first did what I didn’t know was theater-streetside-ha!-storytelling-in alleyways, on the sidewalks, on our neighbors’ front steps with my fellow street urchin friends lol…Dancing & creating & sharing stories were my fave pastimes.

It’s not lost on me that this morning when I looked out & waved back at hundreds of wide-eyed 7-8 yr. old guests, at least half were glowing black & brown faces. It was their first ever class field trip & I’ll never forget & take for granted their enthusiasm & wonder & glee AT. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. They were cheering, gasping, chattering, clapping, reacting, living! For at least one child of immigrants, it was the best day of their life & I got to be part of making that happen. I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.”

– Monalisa Amidar (pictured center with serving tray)

 

 North Texas Giving Day is coming up this month, and we ask you to consider what Dallas Children’s Theater means to your family and the community as a whole. Each individual donation makes an incredible difference and means the world to us!

Early giving is open now, so you can visit our page anytime to make your donation!

Photos by: Joseph Haubert and Karen Almond

The Case for Junie B.

Growing up Junie B.

I’ve been privy to some “behind the scenes” conversations about kids via teachers of kindergarteners through fourth grade, and the one thing I’ve learned is that these kids are ALL so very different. As DCT prepares for JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL, I think about all the kindergarteners and first graders I know, and she is just like them – very different.

In the early Junie B. books, Junie B. is a kindergartener. Kindergarten is like the adolescence of childhood in that it’s a big transition from being a baby to being a kid. Your brain is in overdrive as it takes in information from every direction, and Junie B. is smart and confident, and eager to use her new information as soon as possible. She doesn’t always think things through before she acts on them, but that’s part of being a kid that just finished being a preschooler. She’s a work in progress.

In our new JUNIE B. play, Junie B. is now a “mature” first grader, more aware of her actions, and eager to impart her hard-won knowledge. She has new glasses, new friends, and newer insecurities – she’s at that awkward stage of life where she’s really learning to compare herself to others, and learning when to step in or out of the spotlight. She’s wants to be the outright best at absolutely everything – all world-wise and knowledgeable…at age six. Like many first graders, she wants to help, but doesn’t always want to listen. Kids don’t always know what to do with anger or jealousy; especially a kid like Junie B. who marches to her own beat. In JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL, we see her most “horrid” self in the form of the bull, El Toro Fabuloso: a character she’s created to represent her temper. Much as she tries to use this character to take responsibility for those complicated feelings, it’s Junie B. herself that has to learn to manage them. Here begins the journey of the lesson she must learn.

One of the things I hear when teachers are talking about kids is, “She’s got a MOUTH on her!” This could mean many things. Some of the kids just outright cuss like sailors, but more often than not, it’s about back-talk. I’ll be frank, Junie B. is sassy sometimes, and her mouth often works faster than her brain. This is when we have to be reminded of how young children learn vocabulary. I go into a kindergarten classroom and everything is labeled. Chair.Table.Desk.Door. You get the idea.

The elements that aren’t labeled are feelings, concepts, ideas; the things that are inside that we can’t see. These things are more difficult to communicate, especially when our vocabulary is new and limited. This is when an eager, outspoken kid like Junie B. reaches for the newly-acquired vocabulary words she knows. They don’t always fit, but again, Junie B. is a bit of a square peg.

The cool thing about Junie B. is she doesn’t mind a bit. She’s fine with being different, and that’s one of the best lessons we can learn from her. She surrounds herself with colorful, multi-faceted friends who are as different as she is, and they remind us how balanced our Junie B. really is. If we could all have non-judging friends like Junie B.!

She has a lot to learn, as all five and six-year-olds do, and our kids will have so much fun watching her make mistakes. My kids will sneak a peek at me while they’re laughing to see if I just noticed what she said and if it’s okay that they laughed. I’ll smile at them. Then, we’ll have a great conversation about how she fixed her mistakes, and how we have to think before we act and even think before we speak, because words and attitudes are important. I think Junie B. can teach this to our kids much more powerfully than a lecture on behavior.

JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL is a great alternative to a lecture, filled with all the parts of growing up – a young kid on the road to discovering the recipe that is her life and who she is. As parents and onlookers, let’s remember to do what we can to give them the freedom they need to ultimately get it right. Running September 24 to October 30. You’ll have to see it to find out what happens with El Toro Fabuloso. Get your tickets today at dct.org.

Originally written by Sherry Ward and updated by Joanna Coogan.


JUNIE B.’s ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL GUIDE TO SCHOOL
Book & Lyrics by Marcy Heisler, Music by Zina Goldrich
Adapted from the Junie B. Jones series of books by Barbara Park
Directed by Nancy Schaeffer

September 24 – October 30
Recommended for ages 5 and up

Listen up, I tell you! Junie B. Jones is back, and she’s got some advice to give…eventually. It was her brilliant idea to put together a survival guide for next year’s students, but now she’s at a total loss for what to add to it! It doesn’t help that all her friends are full of cool ideas and dance numbers. How’s a girl supposed to deal with all this competition? Hilariously, of course! In this musical extravaganza great for back-to-school time, Junie B. Jones learns some important lessons about school, patience, and personal growth. This play is perfect for fans of Junie B. and newcomers alike!