Posted by Bruce Miller
We decided to try something different this year on Theatre IV’s mainstage season at the Empire. Change is good.
Our audience for this series includes children age 3 to around 12—and their families. In the past, we’ve offered four shows for everyone. We’ve asked the wigglers to stretch to reach the shows with more developmentally advanced content; we’ve asked the children approaching adolescence to remain comfortable with shows clearly directed to their younger siblings.
This year we’re offering six shows and allowing subscribers to choose the three or four best suited to their child’s age and maturity. For the pre-schoolers and primary grades, we have The Ugly Duckling (which opened last Friday at our historic Empire Theatre), The Song of Mulan, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Upper elementary types may find more enjoyment in A Christmas Carol, Buffalo Soldier, and The Sound of Music. Families are free to mix and match to their hearts’ content.
The Ugly Duckling is one of our oldest and most successful shows for the squirm and learn set. It was written and composed about 30 years ago by Richard Giersch, a former Richmonder now living in Northern Virginia. Throughout the decades, it’s been one of our most parent-and-teacher-requested titles for K-3.
For me, watching The Ugly Duckling is like being visited by the Ghost of Children’s Theatre Past—an oddly satisfying experience. There’s audience participation (everyone is invited to stand in front of their seats and join in dancing the Funky Eagle), humans in animal suits, a moral lesson that is clear as day--even a chase scene. It’s a revival of a classic form, to be sure. Nothing like this would be written today.
It even asks children to have an attention span of more than 60 seconds and listen to extended narrative. How well I remember when extended narrative was the norm. But those were before the days of the explosion of rapid-fire children’s television.
So if you’d like to see an old fashioned play in our new format, please join us for The Ugly Duckling, running two more weekends, in Technocolor, starring Gordon Bass, Eric Pastore, Ali Thibodeau, Duron Tyre, and Aly Wepplo under the direction of Jan Guarino,
Hope to see you and your little ones at the theatre!