Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Your Teen Brain on Stage…

KA3_1302Teens are people too. Their brains, on the other hand, well to say they’re like the rest of ours, that might be a stretch…

Scientists (and parents) worldwide have been trying to work it out: how can you get your precious children to adulthood without having to traverse the rugged terrain of teen-dom.  But there’s just no way around it.  It has been proven, time and time again that there is one rickety path from twelve to twenty.  So, the more we know, the more we can brace ourselves for the inevitable.KA3_0851

Thank goodness for TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL. Finally, years of scientific research on adolescent brain development has culminated in the universal language of the stage musical. If you or someone you love is a teenager, this show was made just for you.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes a galaxy to raise a teen.  DCT is fortunate to be surrounded by community experts who advise us on these tough teen subjects.  In addition to having been a teen themselves, they deal with this population virtually every day.  We are also fortunate to have sponsors who not only have knowledge of the subject, but also care enough to support DCT’s efforts to use theater to trigger these important conversations..

“Being a teenager isn’t easy,” says John McFarland from Children’s Health. “The decisions made as a teen can affect the rest of a person’s life. Besides dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of adolescence, teens often face unprecedented social pressures from friends, family, media and society as a whole.”

KA3_0845Did he say the decisions we make as teenagers can affect the rest of a person’s life?  No kidding! I just have two words to say to that: Garfield Tattoo.

Mr. McFarland continues, “A program like DCT’s TEEN BRAIN is a great way to explore the issues that teens and their families face every day. TEEN BRAIN is also a unique way to jumpstart the conversation within the household.”

Talk about issues?  Have conversations? What a good idea.  Where was this show when I was a teenager?  I had to rely on the Bangles to help me navigate my teens.

In addition to Children’s Health, the Hersh Foundation is  one of DCT’s longtime  sponsors of our teen “issue” plays. Julie Hersh, Foundation President and Author of Struck by Living/Decidi Vivir commented, “TEEN BRAIN offers a comfortable setting for teens to watch and discuss the high-charged teen brain, often stoked by hormones, stress and the impact of social media. Seeing Hersh Foundation logorelevant teen issues on stage creates a unique opportunity to proactively protect minds. Most of the time, teens learn about these issues when a problem explodes, under the harsh spotlight of scrutiny for something that went wrong. TEEN BRAIN allows teachers, parents and students to discuss potential problems and strategies before a problem even surfaces. Funny, clever and moving, this show can help us all maintain our mental health.”

So, obviously taking care of teens and their brains is a big deal and a big job, and we can all use some help.  Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a neighbor, or friend of a teen, this will be an invaluable experience for you.  If you are a teenager, hang in there, friend.  You’ll make it. We hope to see you at the show.

Final weekend of performances coming up! Show must close March 1. Get your tickets HERE.


Written by Sherry Ward, DCT pr manager, and an all-too concerned mother about the approaching teen years of her own sons.


Crystal Charity Ball Selects DCT as a 2015 Beneficiary!

What would life be like if the buzzing light overhead sounded to you like a roaring lion? What if the lights going dark in the theater made you feel like you were trapped in a cave? What if, when you saw a flashing light, your body went into convulsions that you couldn’t control? What if you were so overwhelmed by these situations that you were afraid of big spaces and crowds? This is life for many of the 100,000+ children in Dallas on the autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities, and their 100,000+ siblings, and their 100,000+ parents. If you are the parent of a child with developmental disabilities, most likely you prioritize your child’s safety and forego many community events. Unfortunately, you and your family miss out on so much.

BUT… are you ready for some amazing news? The Crystal Charity Ball has granted $564,400 to expand the Sensory-Friendly Performance Initiative atIMG_3309 (2) Dallas Children’s Theater! The generous grant will allow DCT to more than double the number of sensory-friendly performances in 2016, 2017, and 2018. It also will fund classes especially designed for children with developmental disabilities, and provide for the purchase of equipment that will allow better customization of sensory-friendly shows. In 2018-19, DCT will mount a performance with a cast that includes children with developmental disabilities and children who are typically developing. What a rich and stimulating experience it will be for all! Everyone at DCT is deeply grateful to the wonderful women of The Crystal Charity Ball for acknowledging this community need and for the work they will do this year to fund it.

Cara Gravely French, the Crystal Charity member assigned to research DCT’s application, said the Sensory-Friendly Initiative is appealing in many ways.  “DCT is a dream come true for families with developmental disabilities,” she said. “There are not many places these families can go together and feel likeIMG_3317 (2) they fit in, or feel understood. DCT offers a safe, accepting place for children with developmental disabilities and their families to experience a family outing together. Everyone in the family can reap its many benefits! Parents don’t have to worry, and the children grow socially and cognitively,” French said. She stressed that DCT is the only live theater in our community producing sensory- friendly versions of their productions, offering  critical brain stimulation through the movement, emotion, and cooperative learning. “This program is beneficial to both children with developmental disabilities and typically developing children,” French said.

In 2014, DCT began its journey to become an accepting, comfortable, and safe place for children with developmental disabilities. Three terrific plays were adapted so that children with autism and others who need a more relaxed, comforting environment and performance could enjoy live theater. What a joy it has been to be involved as a mother of a son with multiple disabilities, and as a writer. I have learned so much through interacting with the amazing local Clowns Thrill Stuart Little Audience Memberspartners from Autism Speaks; The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities University of Texas Southwestern and Children’s Health Centers; the Neuropsychology Service of Children’s Health Dallas; and The University of North Texas, including the Kristin Farmer Autism Center, who contributed so much – educating, advising, volunteering, and getting the word out to the families who need this programming. Orlando Repertory Theatre and Nashville Children’s Theatre also contributed to this effort immensely as our national partners. All of these partners deserve a hearty round of applause.

In the pilot year last year, DCT exceeded all of its goals, and families of children with sensory needs resoundingly asked for more opportunities to expose their children to live theater. While the current season also will offer three sensory-friendly performances, Skippyjon Jones, Balloonacy, and The Adventures of Flat Stanley,  the 2016-17 season will offer seven sensory-friendly performances.

Sharron Hunt, Immediate Past President of the DCT Board of Trustees, said of CCB the award, “Crystal Charity members are incredible advocates for children, and Dallas Children’s Theater is a ready and willing ally. This extremely generous grant gives critical support and endorsement to our mission of giving children with developmental disabilities and their families the opportunity for theater arts education. With Crystal Charity’s three-year support, we look forward to sustaining this program for the long term. We are proud to use the power of theater everyday to reach children in ways no other learning mode can. I’ve seen firsthand how it sparks their imagination and their thinking, and no child should be deprived of that experience. On behalf of the entire Board of DCT, I again express how honored and humbled we are to be chosen for this amazing gift.”

CCB Village

Left to right: Sandra Session-Robertson, Nancy Schaeffer, Robyn Flatt, Kory Ballard, Patty Bates-Ballard, Sharron Hunt, Carol March, Karen Travis. Photo: Aaron Rodriguez

The Crystal Charity Ball process is quite rigorous. Being part of the DCT presentation team with my son Kory was a wonderful experience because he and I got to spend time with a group of extremely talented people, all highly motivated to make theater accessible to children like Kory and their families. I am deeply grateful to this group and to all at Dallas Children’s Theater for their tireless efforts to make their sensory-friendly vision come to life.


Patty Bates-Ballard is mom to Kory, who has sensory needs, and a grant writer for DCT.

DCT BELIEVES in young artists!

Now that 2015 is in full swing, we are taking some time to celebrate more grand prize winners of our BELIEVE Creativity Contest which we held BelieveKids-4widelast summer.  While we are highlighting eleven winners, I am still struck by the thoughtfulness with which all of our entries created their work.  This was not a school assignment; it wasn’t homework; it was just a living artistic spirit within them that they needed to express.

Some of these kids had to make extra efforts to get their work to us because, as their entry forms told us, they were not surrounded by adults that had time, energy or other resources to help them.  Their work was ultra expressive; fully representing feelings they, and they alone, were experiencing.    It was these pieces that had a lasting impact on us.

Some among these would have been winners, but they were submitted with no names or contact information. Art is personal, and sometimes it’s easier to be anonymous.  If you are one of these young artists, we celebrate you.  You are amazing.

It’s the time in our season when we get to look into the teen brain with ourZoe Born production of TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL.  When we received Zoe Born’s piece, “The Magic of Stories,” it was the first three-dimensional entry we had received, and it actually had a removable layer which revealed what was inside the brain of the unicorn she created.  There were very specific story elements and she demonstrated how her creative mind works.

Adam RothFor many of these artists, this was the first contest they were entering. They don’t all want to be artists, but kids are just better at finding ways to light their creative spark.  Adam Roth, for example, very methodically engineered his winning project “Machines” based on shows he had seen at DCT. His unique medium was special light-sensitive paper, and it was unlike anything the judges had seen before. He thinks like an inventor and believes his machines have the power to change the world, and we believe him too.

Teen brains are even more mysterious than Zoe’s unicorn, but Malley Morales gave us a little insight into her motivation with her video project.Malley’s video explains how people can impact other’s choices without even knowing it. She explains, “People say things all the time without realizing who is listening. There have been many instances where I’ve made a choice based on someone else’s opinion, but now I know that to succeed, I need to stick to my own morals.”

So here are these kids talking about morals, inventing machines, and demonstrating the layers of the creative process.  Wow.

This artwork will be on display in our lobby throughout the season, and Malley’s video can be seen on Dallas Children’s Theater’s YouTube channel.

As we look forward to the 2015-2016 season, we already have our wheels turning about what the next contest can be.  We might need to raise the bar now that we’ve seen what young people are capable of.  We have lots of work to do to prepare for next season, so we are fortunate to have talented creative kids who are willing to share their gifts with us.

Until the next contest is announced, we’re looking for more opportunities for families to work on small creative projects together in the DCT lobby before performances.  Look for these during SKIPPYJON JONES and our upcoming production of THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT, and don’t forget to check out our fun to do page here.

Also remember that even when kids and adolescents “outgrow” the need to talk to grownups, they are mastering ingenious ways to communicate that take a little more time to interpret.  It’s sure is worth it, though, to crack that code.  If you need some help, bring that adolescent with their creative gibberish to TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL.

Many thanks to Chooze Shoes and Accessories for providing custom gifts for each of our our grand prize winners.