As the 2002-2003 theater season begins, here is a highlight of some of the major children's theaters and series that you can take advantage of in South Florida.
While many of the theaters work closely with the school systems in their counties and bring theater to thousands of students through field trips or outside tours, this list is for you, the parent, focusing on shows that are open to the public. It is by no means a complete list, however, since there are numerous community centers and high schools that also put on quality plays and shows throughout the year.
(Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties)
Story Theatre operates from its original home at the Parker Playhouse. "We've been around long enough that some of our original patrons are coming back and bringing in their own kids," says Julia Valent, executive director of Story Theatre, a not-for-profit organization that presents professional touring children's shows at venues throughout South Florida.
You'll find Story Theatre productions at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts in Miami Beach, Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, the Jim Davidson Performing Arts Center at Walter C. Young Resource Center in Pembroke Pines and the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach.
This year's Story Theatre lineup includes Mother Goose -- A Pocket Full of Rhymes, (a review of Mother Goose rhymes presented in a multicultural fashion), Charlotte's Web, Pinocchio and The Mystery of King Tut (a play that ties in with the "Egyptology" component required for some public school students this year).
As with a Broadway series, families can choose to purchase tickets by the show or by the series. Tickets are $9 per person for individual shows, $32 for the series at the Gleason Theater, Parker Playhouse, or Royal Poinciana Playhouse (includes four shows); and $24 for the series at the Jim Davidson Performing Arts Center (includes three shows). Children age 2 and under are free if they sit on an adult's lap. But live theater isn't recommended for children that young.
Actors' Playhouse Musical Theatre for Young Audiences
Set in the historic Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Actors' Playhouse Musical Theatre for Young Audiences offers five professional, live-theater productions for children each year. The shows are ideal for children between the ages of 3 and 12 and are often based on children's books and stories.
Earl Maulding, director of the Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, says the goal of the children's series is to educate and entertain. Children not only learn through theater at the Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, but also about theater.
Before each performance, Maulding addresses the audience and gives them a mini-etiquette class, letting them know it's OK to laugh when something is funny and that they should show their appreciation for the actors by applauding at the end of the performance. Following the play, families can also stay for a question-and-answer session and a chance to meet the cast members.
The theater also encourages parents to discuss the issues that come up in its plays. Each show (including this year's main stage production of Sound of Music) has an accompanying "Student Enrichment Guide" that can be found on the Actors' Playhouse web site (www.actorsplayhouse.org) with ideas, games and exercises that parents and teachers can use to help children learn more about the play and its messages.
One of the annual highlights of the Musical Theatre for Young Audiences' season is the National Children's Theatre Festival, which showcases the winning musical chosen from the National Call to Competition for new youth-oriented musical works. Maulding created the competition eight years ago in an effort to find and produce more quality original productions for children. The festival kicks off with the Festival Family Fun Day on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, at the Miracle Theatre, which includes a performance of the show, performances by other cultural groups, hands-on activities, and workshops for children.
Admission to most performances throughout the season is $9 per ticket. The theater also offers "Flexible/Anytime" season subscriptions for $45 for all five shows. For main stage shows, such as the Sound of Music, ask the box office about special family discounts. In addition, you can plan your child's birthday party at the theater, including the show, pizza and birthday cake.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts caters each season to children and families with its Family Fun Series, a series of children's plays that takes place in the intimate, 580-seat Amaturo Theater, and two "Family Specials," large-scale, Broadway-style productions such as Sesame Street Live that are held in the main 2,700-seat Au-Rene Theater.
South Florida Parenting list best theaters for kids
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