Theater, Volunteering

Volunteering at Northwest Children’s Theater

If you follow this blog at all, you know that we tend to go to a lot of theater.  One of the really cool things about Northwest Children’s Theater in particular is the multiple ways children can get involved with the theater experience- from attending plays, taking classes, Girl Scout workshops, going to theater camp, or even volunteering. We have taken advantage of most of those opportunities, but we recently gave volunteering a shot for the very first time!

Children as young as 4 are allowed to be assistant ushers or program passers (as long as an adult is with them).  Nugget has been itching to do this for a while.  There have been times we have arrived early and he has asked for jobs to do.  The staff there is so amazing, and they have given him extremely important responsibilities like making sure the bathroom lights are on and that there is toilet paper in the boys bathroom.  He took these tasks quite seriously.

This fall, we decided to do it the real way.  I signed the three of us up to be usher’s for the season opener play, How I Became a Pirate. We were told to arrive an hour prior to show time. After your first time, you are asked to arrived 40 minutes prior to the start. After some quick paperwork for the grown-ups, we were assigned our duties.

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Nugget and I were designated as program passers. Nugget’s face about broke from his excited smile. He grabbed some familiar faces (like I said, we go there a lot), to role play his job and took it all very seriously. He was a fantastic program passer.

Chicken got to be a stage guard, which meant she sat on the steps leading up onto the stage to keep curious kiddos off the stage. She was very excited. I was busy with Nugget, but apparently she tracked down the mom of a kiddo who was adamant about getting on stage. Don’t mess with my kid!

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As we waited for patrons to arrive, we were asked to help fill in missing numbers that they tape to the back of seats to make them easier to find. As this involved the use of a packaging tape dispenser, both kiddos were totally on board.

We were told that once our duties were done, we could sit anywhere there were open seats. As the show we were at didn’t happen to be overly crowded, we would up with a pretty good view! It did take us a moment to get into audience mode after coming straight from our ‘job,’ but we settled in quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the show!

Apart from the benefit of being allowed to see the show without purchasing a ticket, we were also heach given a token for a free concession to use at the next show we come to.

Northwest Children’s Theater also started a passport program this season. You earn stamps in your passport for doing different things related to attending the theater, and volunteering is one of them. There are prizes as you acquire stamps. First stamp- check! In order to acquire additional stamps, you can do things like take public transportation to a show, dress up for a show, take a class, etc. Next time you are there, take a minute to check it out!
 

What it is: fun, developmentally appropriate assigned jobs, a way to ease the financial burden of going to shows, a way for kids to feel involved and helpful

What it’s not: for kids who are painfully shy

You can sign up to volunteer here:  https://nwcts.org/usher-a-show/

You can buy tickets here:  https://nwcts.secure.force.com/ticket

Theater

Tenali- Northwest Children’s Theater

For the past few years, Northwest Children’s Theater has collaborated with Anita Menon’s Anjali School of Dance to create beautiful works of theater and dance.  Anjali’s School of Dance focuses on traditional South Indian dance and her students are amazingly talented.  Their collaboration has resulted in numerous awards and full theater audiences.  Their show last year, Chitra, was gorgeous and we were really looking forward to seeing what they came up with this year.

This year it was Tenali, the story of a minister to the king who wreaks havoc by not doing his job; in this case he fails to protect the king’s favorite crown.   The show begins with an impressive procession of dancers leading the king to his place on the stage.  Beautiful dancing ensues before introducing us to the characters and the plot.  There is a lot of humor, and Chicken was definitely amused.

While Tenali was the title character and the actor has a great stage presence, it was three other ministers who stole the show.  The minister of spies, a bumbling police officer type, is played by one of our favorite NWCT actors and brings his trademark humor and fun to the role.  The minister of art has boundless energy, does some pretty impressive acrobatics, and fills the stage with his smile and enthusiasm.  The royal accountant, armed with his trusty abacus, manages to get all of his calculations wrong despite his best and most earnest efforts.  I feel his pain.

This production uses an extended stage, and we love it every time they make this choice.  In this case, it was amazing to see the individuals playing the music and I was astonished to see a single woman do the majority of singing to such a perfect degree I initially thought it was pre-recorded music.

The show itself is colorful, fast-paced, energetic, and action packed.  The long dance number at the end which incorporates a bit of audience participation is something the behold.  The costumes are stunning and the dancing really is incredible.  This style of dancing is so articulated, from the intricate and specific placement of fingers to the intentional use of eye gaze.  It is all so precise and yet graceful and dynamic.  The years of training, dedication, and passion clearly comes through.

As always, the cast members were fantastic with the kids during the meet and greet after the show.  And as always, Nugget refused to talk to any of the girls.  One actually tried to get his attention and talk to him and he put his hand to his neck and whispered “I have a sore throat” and continued on his merry way.  Still working on that one.  But the cast members he did talk to answered all of his random questions, from “what is the paint on your head for?” to “why did you do a flip?,” and my favorite, “what is your favorite kind of cheese?”  Because that is important to know about a person.  They were beyond gracious as he began organizing his own photo shoots, gathering his favorite characters and suggesting they do serious faces or silly faces.  To his credit, they really did turn out to be my favorite pictures of the day!  Because the hand movements are so specific during the dancing, Nugget apparently interpreted this as sign language and proudly showed off his minimal knowledge of signing.  The cast members were lovely and played right along.

So….

What it is: Relatively short (70ish minutes), making it perfect for a younger child, colorful, full of amazing dancing, funny, a bit of a convoluted story that may be a bit confusing for young children to follow, a bit of audience involvement at the end, inclusive of beautiful music children can intuitively find the beat of, family friendly, based on a real person (who knew?!?) who continues to be present in Indian popular culture

What it’s not: A story familiar to most children not exposed to East Indian stories

Do we recommend it? Yeperoozers!  And definitely take advantage of the meet and greet!

The show is running through May 12th.  You can find more information and buy tickets here:  https://nwcts.org/

And if you can’t make it to this show, this amazing collaboration with bring the return of The Jungle Book next season!

Theater

The Starlings Present Dinosaurs! (Northwest Children’s Theater)

This weekend I braced myself and took the kids downtown to see puppets teach us about dinosaurs.  It wouldn’t be fair to say I was dreading it, but I wasn’t as excited as I often am about shows.  So I bribed myself with meeting some of our favorite people there and planning lunch afterwards.  That’s allowed, right?

So, the Starlings.  NWCT got a grant to study puppetry and develop a “flock” of bird puppets.  They have now starred in 3 shows- Sleeping Beauty (we didn’t see that one), Amelia Earhart, and now Dinosaurs.  The two Starlings shows we have seen were written by NWCT with original songs and choreography.  They focus on teaching kids about a topic in fun and creative ways.

One thing I do love about the Starlings shows is the level of interaction with the audience.  They bring the puppets (in character) into the lobby before the show and interact with the kids.  They also go into the seating area before the show and take pictures with kids, talk to kids, and generally wreak havoc.  And I will say that all of that is really fun.  It creates a high energy, fun atmosphere and gets the kids ready to go.  The kids love getting to touch the puppets and talk to the birds as if they were real.  Nugget, of course, had to take another path.  He told one that it wasn’t a real bird because it was too colorful and birds are black. Clearly we need to go somewhere tropical!  He recognized a puppeteer as the person who had played his favorite pirate, and spent quite a bit of time calling him Smee and trying to get the person to admit he wasn’t really a bird.

The show itself is fast moving, creative, silly, and educational.  A couple of the songs are pretty catchy.  And there are tap dancing t-rexes, so there’s that.  The show teaches how dinosaurs are named and then gives the audience a chance to name their own dinosaurs.  They even come into the audience and let some kiddos announce their dinosaur names.  My littles eat that stuff up. The Starlings shows tend to target a younger audience, and the 75 minute run time is just about right for the age range that tends to go.

The good: it’s a short, fun, fast paced, interactive, colorful show

The not great: the shows always seem a bit chaotic to me.  But I think it’s a reflection of the inner workings of the little kid brain- which is who they are trying to entertain

 

Do we recommend it?  They are not my favorite shows and I find them a bit overwhelming.  But Chicken and Nugget cannot get enough and the kids in the audience seem enthralled as well.  And since it is a children’s theater, I would say they hit their mark.

Tickets can be found at:  https://nwcts.org/

 

 

Camps and Classes, Holiday, Theater

Mary Poppins at North West Children’s Theater

This weekend we had the pleasure of meeting some friends at Northwest Children’s Theater for their holiday show- Mary Poppins! The day was fantastic for many reasons.

Chicken participated in their Girl Scouts workshop before the show. It was such a fun experience for her! There were four teachers, some of whom she recognized from other shows we have gone to. I mean, she got to hang out with Donkey from Shrek the Musical! That alone made her day. They played acting games, saw backstage, and explored the costume area. They even learned one of the songs and a bit of the choreography. She had so many things to share with us when it was over.

While she did that, Nugget and I headed to Starbucks to meet some special people in our lives and play Uno. A win for all! Well, me. I crushed him. No mercy, mamas! Then it was time to wander back over to the theater.

The look on his face when he saw his little buddy and the hug they gave each other made my eyes fill with tears. They were so excited to see each other and to see the play!

The opening set was beautiful. Light was used to portray smoke rising from chimneys, which fascinated both boys. All of the sets were beautiful and changed frequently. The kid actors were adorable and Mary Poppins herself was spot on. All of classic songs are there, along with some not found in the movie. Mary Poppins did her flying with an umbrella thing, which was a huge highlight for all the kids. Choreography seemed like it was in slow motion, but the kids seemed to like it because it made it easier for them to mimic later. Actors frequently used the aisle, and Nugget did not ask even once if they were there to eat him.

As we left the show, our little 5-year-old buddy said “that was awesome!” as Nugget proudly sached down the aisle singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite. The girls were a little deeper in their thoughts and had lots of good things to say.

As always, the kids had fun getting their programs signed and their pictures taken. As usual, Nugget refused to go near any of the girls. He is so weird.

Once we got home, they played the soundtrack on our Alexa and Nugget even put on a penguin costume to act out the penguin scene from the movie (the song is in the play but is sadly penguin free).

So….

What it is: a fun family holiday show, full of music and beautiful sets, engaging, perfectly time for those dying to see the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns movie (me! me!), a great date afternoon for the family.

What it is not: Short! It ran about 3 hours with the intermission so may not be the best choice for very young children who aren’t used to theater

Would we recommend it? Yes! Completely! It is running through January 6th and tickets, or what is left of them, can be found here:

https://nwcts.org/

Fall Activities, Spring and Summer Activities, Theater, Winter Activities

Northwest Children’s Theater

Like I said, we go to A LOT of theater.  Like, A LOT.  Sometimes twice in a weekend.  And we love every moment of it.  Of course, each of us has our favorite plays and our not so favorite plays.  Chicken and Nugget particularly love musicals.  They have been known to come home singing the parts of songs they can remember, make related costumes out of computer paper, post hand made posters about the play all over the house, and reenact their favorite scenes.  That’s some of the many reasons I love taking them to theater.  We not only have a great time together, but they learn from the plays and engage in creative activity related to it long after the play itself is over.

Northwest Children’s Theater is a great way to introduce your kiddos to the performing arts.  While I will post about individual plays we go to, the theater itself deserves a nod.

Located in Portland near Providence Park, prices are reasonable (and discounted if you buy a season subscription), and sometimes Gold Star offers even deeper discounts for specific performances.  Full price single tickets range between $16 and $25.  If you purchase a full subscription by the designated date- usually sometime in the spring or summer- an actor dressed as a character from the upcoming season will hand deliver your tickets.  They come in full costume, bring the tickets, balloons, and posters, talk with the kiddos and take pictures.  We have met the characters at the park and the kiddos have always loved it.  Well, except the time we got Cinderella.  Nugget is afraid of princesses.  I have no idea why.

They offer a wide variety of plays that are all family friendly.  Each season they offer a play specifically for the younger toddler crowd.   This year it is Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play.  We saw it when they did it a couple of years ago and it is adorable.  These plays are generally 45 to 60 minutes with simple dialogue, silliness, and fun.  The remainder of the plays generally run 90-120 minutes plus an intermission.  Adults are often cast in some of the main roles, but there are always children in the supporting roles, and sometimes in the main as well.

The plays they chose are engaging for kids, and often fun for the adults.  Sets are colorful, costumes are tasteful, and it’s just a fun time.  Heads up for the nervous kiddos, it’s not uncommon for actors to come down the aisle.  It took me a full theater season to convince Nugget the characters would not eat him.

After the plays, families are invited to stay and have their programs signed by the cast and take pictures with the cast if they so desire.  Chicken and Nugget LOVE this part (although Nugget refuses to be photographed with a girl) and often give me the honor of signing a program they design themselves when we get home.

In addition to plays, they offer camps and classes.  Each of my kiddos has done a camp- Chicken did My Little Pony and Nugget did Elephant and Piggie.  They each had a great time and made new friends.  Camps vary from exploratory to skill based to putting on an actual play.  They also do school based programs and even have Girl Scout workshops.  Chicken did the Peter Pan Girl Scout workshop and really enjoyed it.  She definitely recommends it.

In summary, we love Northwest Children’s Theater.  We think you might, too.

What it is: fun take on children’s theater, affordable, creative, varied in what they offer, appropriate for many age ranges, a great opportunity to photograph your kid with some of their favorite characters without going all the way to Disney Land, a great way to introduce your family to theater without having to worry your kid will be the only kid there and will somehow ruin the experience for everyone else (come on.  You know you thought it as soon as I mentioned taking a young child to a play).

What it’s not: particularly comfy in terms of seating (seating is on old church pews, but they do have cushions available), a fancy pants venue

Do we recommend it?  1000% yes

You can get more information on their website:  https://nwcts.org/

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