Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Anna Kurian: From the Board Room to the Front Lines

A DCT Hero Salute

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to ravage our country and state, it’s comforting to know that we do have heroes among us; selfless citizens who go above and beyond just to help keep our community moving forward. DCT Board Member Anna Kurian is one of those people. 

The need for feeding families has reached unprecedented levels as North Texans have been slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated dire economic ramifications. Few have been as immersed in the relief effort as Anna Kurian, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for North Texas Food Bank (NTFB).

“Since the pandemic began, spread and spiked across North Texas, we have doubled down on our efforts. Our food bank has distributed more than 35 million pounds of food since March 15 via our Mobile Pantry efforts and our Partner Agency Feeding Network,” said Kurian. “We have served at  least 246,000 people at sites such as Fair Park, the University of North Texas Dallas, North Lake College, and Lone Star Park.”

Kurian celebrated six years as a Food Banker on April 28, and during that time has held a number of roles while serving alongside passionate hunger fighters. Being spokeswoman for the organization can be daunting and the hours exhausting. On days when she is working from home, her computer usually boots up at 8AM, and in between answering media calls, responding to emails and putting out fires, it doesn’t shut down until 10PM.

Long hours, but working from home does have a few perks.

Her husband, Benson, is a hands-on dad, but anytime she catches a breath, Kurian tries to spend as much time with her children, Sophie (5), and Cassian (1). “I like being the one that puts the baby down for his naps,” she said. A demanding job, a husband and two young children. What keeps Kurian’s stress level from being off the charts?

“I try to find a balance between being home and being offsite at our distributions,” she said. “I cherish the moments when I can be onsite. I love my food bank family, and getting to see them during Mobile Pantry distributions is a highlight of my week.”

NTFB isn’t the only nonprofit that benefits from Kurian’s time. Somehow, she makes time to serve on the Dallas Children’s Theater Board of Trustees. In her role at the food bank, she works to increase NTFB’s brand recognition through direct-response efforts, social media, the website, media relations and advertising. She said she is happy to serve DCT using these same principles.

You might think endless lines of cars waiting to be served and seeing the urgent need of the public would be devastating. Kurian often jokes about being coldhearted, but when she sees the immense need in our community, she finds it overwhelming and heartbreaking.

“I have met countless people who are seeking our help for the first time,” she said. “Each of them has a unique story, and I feel privileged to be able to help them, but at the same time saddened that the need is so great. At the end of the day, I am proud to be a Food Banker. The community has rallied behind our mission and provided us with overwhelming support.”

What gives Kurian the stamina to keep going when the coronavirus shows no sign of letting up any time soon?

“It sounds a bit corny,” she said, “but the kindness of strangers is what is keeping me going at the food bank. We have had people from different states send in money because they saw the NTFB on a national news story. We had people who donated their stimulus money because they want to help others, and finally, North Texas is the most giving community. I know that even when businesses reopen and people get back to work, there will continue to be a need, but thanks to the generosity of the community, the food bank is ready to meet that need.”

Anna Kurian may not think of herself as a hero. But as she fights against hunger in North Texas, she is most certainly a warrior.

Written by Coy Covington 

Coy is in his eleventh year as Executive Administrator at Dallas Children’s Theater. He is also an accomplished actor, director, wig and hair designer and freelance writer.

Photos courtesy of Anna Kurian and Coy Covington

Memorable Moments at DCT – A father’s thoughts…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Amari’s Dad, Mar, shares his perspective…Part 3

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Amari and her parents are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on in our final installment with Amari’s family, as Amari’s dad, Mar, shares his DCT memories…

How did you originally come to know about DCT?

As a youth in Dallas, I was introduced to Dallas Children’s Theater at the Rosewood location by my Uncle Rocky who served on the board as a treasurer. He would take my siblings and I to see plays, and sometimes I would sit in on board meetings with him. Now, as a husband and father, I also sit on the DCT board. I am so appreciative that DCT has played such a significant role in my family’s life.

What is your most meaningful memory of your daughter at DCT?

One of my fondest memories of my daughter, Amari, is when she was about seven, and we took her to see the play Pinkalicious. She was so excited about going to the play, because we had purchased the book for her from her school book fair. When we arrived on opening night, DCT provided such a spectacular experience; any little girl would have truly loved it. Her face was beaming with excitement as she watched the play. I am always happy to see that DCT has merchandise for parents to purchase from the play; story props, books and more. Having these items available during the show makes the play more realistic, interactive and memorable. My girls still have their Pinkalicious wands today!

What is valuable about taking your kid to a DCT production rather than watching a movie or TV?

In my opinion, live theater provides a higher level of professionalism than television. When you attend a play at DCT, you can see the results of the actors practice and the love they have for the craft of live performance. When my wife and I take my daughters to see a play, we want them to understand all of the parts that make a live play come together, from writing the play to staging. With our girls understanding this, they have become more creative and aspire to express themselves through piano, singing and visual art.

What do you think is special about the DCT experience, and why do you continue to come back to productions?

I continue to bring my family back to DCT, because it is truly a family affair. Not just for my family and the community, but the theater itself is a safe place for all to come who love the performing arts. Robyn’s family decided years ago that they wanted to service our community, with love, care, and an experience you can’t find anywhere else. Even today, there is no place like DCT!

Would you like to add anything else?

With continued support, DCT will be around for years to come. I know what my daughters have experienced here has changed them for the better. I strongly encourage and hope families will continue to bring their families and invest in live theater. Investing in DCT is investing in the future of our children. Thank you DCT for molding my girls, as you have molded me!

Did you miss the last two posts? Catch up here and here.

Photos courtesy of Mar Howard

Memorable Moments at DCT – A mom speaks…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Amari’s Mom, Constance, shares her perspective…Part 2

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Amari and her parents are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on as we quiz Constance on her DCT memories…

How did you originally come to know about DCT?

When I met my husband Mar in high school, he often spoke about going to Dallas Children’s Theater when he was young. He shared with me that his Uncle Rocky would take him and his siblings to see plays there. So when we had children of our own, we decided that we would continue to take our children to DCT so they could have the same memorable experiences he had.

What is your most meaningful memory of your daughter at DCT?

The most meaningful memory for our daughter, Amari, is when she went on stage after the play Seussical. This was a BIG deal because Amari was a very introverted and quiet child, and she never liked crowds. However, the day she saw Seussical, I remember her coming alive with the cast and all of the action. Her dad and I were sitting in the seats – while she was on stage – tearing up. For the first time, she was interacting with others, out of her comfort zone, and having so much fun!

What is valuable about taking your kid to a DCT production rather than watching a movie or TV?

I valued taking my children to DCT productions because it was an entire experience for them. The plays are literary based, and we would always read the book before coming to the show or after we left. My daughter enjoyed making comparisons between the books and the plays. When we go to the movies or watch TV at home, it’s less interactive, and my children would get bored halfway through it. DCT productions allow children to be a part of the plays and feel involved.

What do you think is special about the DCT experience, and why do you continue to come back to productions?

We continue to purchase season tickets and bring our children back to DCT, because it teaches them the importance of the arts. There are so many lessons and skills they can learn by watching a play. I also believe it sparks a creative fire in my children to want to create. A DCT experience also helps children, like my daughter, who are shy become more comfortable around others through the classes and camps they offer.

Would you like to add anything else?

I’d like families to know that there is only one DCT! There aren’t many places in our community where families can take their children to learn about live theater. By supporting DCT, you are supporting a child’s dream of becoming an actor (actress), singer, director, writer, vocalist or just a well-developed human being! DCT has played a wonderful role in building powerful memories for my family, and I hope it will continue to do that for generations to come.

Did you miss Amari’s original post? Catch up here.

Photos by Karen Almond, Lawrence Jenkins, and courtesy of Amari Howard

Memorable Moments at DCT: Amari’s story

My DCT Experience, Part 1

By Amari Howard

Young Amari at DCT’s 2012-2013 production of GOODNIGHT MOON

When I was younger, I was always very quiet, shy and introverted. My Uncle Rocky (who is a board member at DCT) took my dad Mar (who is now also a board member), my Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Corey to Dallas Children’s Theater when they were kids. So, when my sister and I were little, my dad started taking us to DCT. The first play I can recall seeing was GOODNIGHT MOON when I was 6 or 7. For as long as I can remember, we have always held season tickets. My mom and dad continued to take us to plays; we would always go on opening night.

GOODNIGHT MOON

Opening night was my favorite, because DCT always has something special that night, like Tiff’s Treats, craft tables, or cupcakes from Sprinkles (my favorite.)

I enjoy watching live plays better than watching television and movies, because it’s so real. I really enjoy seeing the different costumes and live action. My favorite play, by far is SEUSSICAL™! This was the first time I interacted with the cast after the show. I also got to go onstage that night to see the actual set, as well as the costumes from SEUSSICAL™ and other plays.

2016-2017 production of SEUSSICAL

DCT has played a big part in my adolescence. When we went to plays, my mom and dad made sure we were always dressed nicely, sat properly and understood what we watched. If there was a book related to the play, they would buy it before or after the play.

Amari and sister getting photographs after the show

Sometimes we would have three tickets and my mom and dad would rotate turns taking my sister and I. That was the time we had a girls day out or daddy-daughter time. DCT brought my family together; it was always a great outing to go see a play and afterwards go to dinner to discuss our favorite parts. Each time we went to a play, we were treated so kindly by all of the staff. They knew our family and called my sister and I by our name. I could tell they really cared about us. It felt like going to a relative’s house each time we went.

Amari enjoying the DCT lobby pre-show

What I find meaningful about DCT is how they put children first in everything they do. Each play tells a variety of stories that all children can relate to. DCT offers many classes and camps to help children like me find a fun and creative way to become more comfortable interacting with others and with public speaking. Once, I remember trying to put on my very own play for my mom and dad at home. I have fallen in love with live theater and musicals! I think I have come out of my shell and I am a bit more extroverted; I owe that to the DCT!

Amari today

I think it is very important for parents to invest in DCT productions, because live plays teach kids more than the screen does. It teaches children about storytelling, production, lighting, timing and so much more! I hope that the DCT will be around for a very long time. Due to COVID-19, the play LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET was canceled. My family was dedicating this play to my great-grandmother Eleanor.

Last Stop on Market Street 19-20 Season

Only a place like the DCT can give families in the community an opportunity like that. I encourage families to invest in DCT, so we can all enjoy more live plays that touch on new and old stories that children like me love. I truly believe it is an experience that will change a young person’s life like it has changed mine. I hope one day my children, too, will enjoy DCT plays like my dad and I have!

Next week: Amari’s mom, Constance, shares her memorable moments.

Photos by Karen Almond, Lawrence Jenkins, and courtesy of Amari Howard

Who is Miss Nelson? Let’s take a look at the Miss Nelson series.

Did you know the Miss Nelson books are a trilogy?

There are three books in the Miss Nelson Series!

Published in 1977, 1982, and 1985, these fantastic books feature the mild-mannered teacher Miss Nelson, and ruthless Viola Swamp…and show how the two might be more alike than their students know.

Miss Nelson is Missing marks the beginning of the series, with Miss Nelson Has a Field Day serving as the finale. Miss Nelson is Back, introduces Mr. Blandsworth, the dull substitute teacher.

Which is your favorite? Tell us why at family@dct.org!


Only 9 days left to see this zany play! Don’t miss it…

Choose your experience level and plan your watch party today!


Experience Level 1 – $10
Show Only

It’s just over an hour of great music, clever lines, and a heartwarming football story about never giving up!


Experience Level 2 – $25
Show Plus Zoom Event featuring Playwright, Cast and how the Super Bowl got its name

See the show and join us for a fun Zoom event on Thursday, July 30 at 7PM! The Zoom event will feature Playwright Joan Cushing (who also wrote the play, DIARY OF A WORM, A SPIDER AND A FLY). Kids will have a chance to ask her questions about writing and the many characters she has created. And, did you know that the young lady who helped create the name Super Bowl lives right here in Dallas? Well, join us for the Zoom event and you’ll hear her tell the story of how it all came to be! Cast members will also be a part of the one-hour special event. Fun, fun, fun. Please note: The link will be sent in a separate email on Monday, July 27.


Experience Level 3 – $50
Show, Zoom Event, Personalized Video Wake-Up Call from your choice of four characters, and Entry into a drawing to win a stuffed football, book or other Nelson items.

Includes the show and a fun Zoom event on Thursday, July 30 at 7PM featuring playwright Joan Cushing. Kids can pose questions about her characters. Also learn how the Super Bowl got named by someone from Dallas! Meet cast members, too. Each family will receive a personalized video wake-up call from the Cheerleader, Miss Viola Swamp herself, the Coach or Miss Nelson for each child in your household! And, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a chance to win mementos.

Your child can still enroll in DCT classes for this week…or next…

Spots still available for fun classes the week of July 27 and August 3. Sign up today!

Here are just a few examples of the classes we are offering for our older teen students entering grades 7th-12th.

VIRTUAL TWO WEEK IMPROV
JULY 27 – AUG. 7  2:30pm Cost $175

Master Improv skills with Jeff Swearingen, director, actor, and improv artist.  Learn to think on your feet and how to be funny doing it! See what it takes to bring your imagination to life on the stage in this 60 minute Zoom session.


VIRTUAL VOICEOVER WORKSHOP with EMILY GRAY
JULY 27-31  Monday-Friday 1:00pm-2:00pm Cost $200

Emily Gray has shared her vocal talents on commercials, animation, video games, audio books, and more. In this one-week intensive workshop, Emily will lead her students on a discovery of their own unique vocal abilities and talents. Students will leave the class with several samples of voiceovers that they can use for years to come. Explore the world of voice acting and voiceovers!


VIRTUAL MUSICAL THEATER SHOWCASE
JULY 27-AUGUST 7 Monday-Friday 10:30am-12:00pm Cost $275

Work with award-winning musical theater professionals: K. Doug Miller, Director of Musical  Theater, and Adam Wright, Musical Director and Composer. Become an acting, singing, and dancing triple threat in this two-week intensive! On the final day, family and friends can watch your original Zoom show! 90 minute Zoom session.


VIRTUAL TECH AND DESIGN WORKSHOP
AUGUST 3-7 Monday-Friday 1:00pm Cost $125

Join the Dallas Children’s Theater Production Department for this one of a kind virtual tech and design workshop. Each day a member of the DCT team will lead an interactive Zoom session focusing on an area of the theater: Sets, Lighting, Costumes, Sound, Stage Management and more. Asynchronous materials and resources will be provided throughout the week. Students will have opportunities to submit designs and samples of their own for feedback. All experience levels welcome!


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photos by: Karen Almond

Imaginative storytelling for kids of all ages!

Everyone is a storyteller…these tools can get you started…

With simplicity and ease of access, Birmingham Children’s Theatre has brought together storytelling and puppetry. With three different productions to choose from, chances are you’ll find something your little one will enjoy. Maybe they will be inspired to create a play of their very own. Runtime 8-12 minutes.


Want less viewing and more doing? Here’s an app that lets kids safely create their own production. TELESTORY is only available in the Apple App store, but it is definitely worth a look. Kids get to pretend they are television producers, directors and writers who star in their own shows, as well as learn some valuable skills in content creating! They get to plan their shows, write the scripts, rehearse, record and perform in them, and then edit the completed shows. It features model shows and general templates that they can use if they need inspiration.


Another great creativity-focused app is TOONTASTIC 3D. This app allows your children to make their own cartoons! We recommend Toontastic 3D for ages 5-12. It includes various story outlines, scenes and dozens of colorful characters. Kids can either use those characters or create their own with simple drawing tools, press “record” and then move characters around and narrate the story with their own voice recording. They can add a musical score, and put all the pieces together in a single 3D cartoon. The app also has cartoons created by other kids and useful storytelling tips. Download off the Apple App store, or Google Play.

Stay busy! Stay creative!

Memorable Moments at DCT: One father’s story

Memorable Moments at DCT:
Erin’s Dad, John, shares his perspective…Part 3

We want to thank all of you who are taking an opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Erin and her parents are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on as young Erin quizzes her dad about his DCT memories…
 
How did you come to know about DCT?

“I came to know about DCT because my wife told me about it, and we started taking you and your brother there. I think we are really blessed to have such a great children’s theater in Dallas, and it’s a fun activity for everyone in the community.”

What is your earliest memory of going to DCT with me?

“I remember going to ‘The Mummy’s Claw’ with you and your brother, and you having a combination of loving it experience and also a being on the edge of your seats reaction. But, DCT works hard to make every kid have a positive experience, and by the time we left, you both wanted to see it again, and like all the performances, ‘The Mummy’s Claw’ was superb.”

Do you have a favorite moment at DCT?

“My favorite moment at the theater was pretty much at every performance we went to when you and your brother were little; when we got out of the theater at the end, and all the actors and actresses were accessible, and you two were able to meet people who were representing characters that you had grown to love during the performance. That ability to be able to engage with the actors behind the scenes was something that I really liked because I could see the joy in your eyes and your excitement.”

What do you think is different about seeing a show at DCT versus going to a movie or watching TV?

“I think it’s really different because there is more of a sense of community when you are watching a DCT production, and you see other people there that are really enjoying something that’s playing out in front of them in a very visceral way. Unlike at a movie theater where everyone is experiencing something individually at their seats, at DCT, there is way more of a sense of community both before the show , during the show, and after the show. At the end, you get to meet the actors and actresses, so you get a chance to become much more a part of what you are seeing.”

Why should families make DCT visits a priority?

“Families should make DCT visits a priority because it is a crown-jewel in Dallas that doesn’t exist in a lot of other cities. The type of shows that DCT is able to put on and how incredible they are, they are as good as any adult oriented performance you could see. The production values are super high, the people there care so much, and it’s more of a total experience. You aren’t just going there to witness something; you are able to engage. On top of that, there are all sorts of programs that they offer that allow children to really be able to engage more in the arts than just going to see performances. It’s something that is really unique, and we are super lucky to have it in Dallas, and people who don’t take advantage of that are missing out.”

Did you miss the first two posts? Catch up!
Memorable Moments: One Child’s Story
Memorable Moments: Erin’s Mom, Julie, shares her perspective

Production photo by Linda Blase. Additional photos courtesy of John Parolisi.

Memorable Moments at DCT: One parent’s story

Memorable Moments at DCT:
Erin’s Mom, Julie, shares her perspective…Part 2

We want to thank all of you who are taking an opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Erin and her parents are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on as young Erin quizzes her mom about her DCT memories…

How did you come to know about DCT?

“When we moved to Dallas from Chicago, I was looking for activities to do with my kids, and I was delighted to find a theater that specifically targeted families because we did not have that in Chicago. So, in Dallas we got a year-round opportunity to see productions as a family versus in Chicago where maybe once a year a theater would do something for kids.”

What is your earliest memory of going to DCT with me?

“I remember taking you to see ‘If You Give a Pig a Party’ at the start of the season when we moved here, and you loved it so much. It was celebratory, and it was funny. You and your brother talked about it in the car ride all the way home. You laughed about it, and it was great!”

Do you have a favorite moment at DCT?

“I always enjoyed taking you to see shows, but I also was really excited when you wanted to take summer camp at DCT and be part of a show yourself. What I really liked over the course of the camp was that it brought you out of your shell, especially when you would tell me on the car ride home how excited you were about the costume, and how you came up with some crazy dog character. It just sounded really fun, and you would do the acting exercises in front of the mirror, especially the one with your hand going in front of your face and changing your expressions. So, I was just really excited to see you develop a passion.”

What do you think is different about seeing a show at DCT versus going to a movie or watching TV?

“You and your brother always liked watching things on TV, but you both would always zone-out a little bit. When the productions are live and in front of you, it’s a lot more exciting. You’ve got a much larger group of kids around you, so the laughter is infectious. Not only did you both pay more attention, but the experience is more creative, and anything can happen. At Dallas Children’s Theater especially, the actors are very good at coming out into the audience and being interactive. I just like that ability to see creativity live.”

Why should families make DCT visits a priority?

“I think all families should make DCT a priority because it is live, it is creative, it is right in our backyard, it is a perfect introduction into a lifelong support of the arts. It’s fun and engaging, and as a family, you remember it and talk about it. It creates great memories and it’s something wonderful to do together. It’s also a great field trip for a family to get out of your house and explore Dallas.”

Did you miss Erin’s original post? Catch up here.

Next week: Erin’s dad, John, talks about his memorable moments.

Photos courtesy of Julie Parolisi

How are you doing, parents? Got the fenced-in blues? Take 15 minutes for yourself.

This summer: Relax and grow with these resources specifically chosen for busy moms and dads!

Dallas Children’s Theater understands that the recent isolation requirements don’t create a stressful time for just the little ones, but for parents, too! For this reason, we have a special care package just for the wonderful moms and dads of the world. Thanks for keeping everyone’s spirits up during this trying time.

Take some time for you, and do some animal-themed yoga with DCT Teaching Artist Katy Tye. Your kids will love it, too!  Press play and start to feel better immediately…


Wanting to learn more about technology but intimidated by the amount of resources and technobabble you have to sift through? PwC has kindly made their Digital Fitness App available to download for FREE. This app keeps you up-to-date on new technology, with explanations on all sorts of new innovations.

Simply use this invite code: LRNALL

Download the app on your preferred device! Happy learning!


Alamo Drafthouse is keeping busy, even when social distancing remains necessary. With a number of unique (not for kids!) titles available to stream for a price, you can pour yourself a drink, eat dinner, and have an Alamo Drafthouse experience right in the comfort of your own living room! They’ve been a supportive partner of Dallas Children’s Theater, so we are happy to show them a little love.


The Crow Museum of Asian Art is providing 15-minute mindful meditations. A few minutes of daily deep breathing will yield benefits for a lifetime. Also available, are unique interviews with artists in the Dallas area. Support your local museums and score yourself 15 minutes to get centered.

We hope you discover peaceful and beneficial moments in these tidbits. We appreciate all you do, and we’ll see you again soon!