Family-Friendly Performance Series

Family-Friendly Performance Series


The holidays are here and the “Family Performance Series,” Artists’ Exchange’s newest family-friendly programming, is the perfect activity to entertain all of your family members for little to no cost.  Series performances began in September and will run through May 2016, with shows on Saturday mornings from 11:00am-12:00pm at Theatre 82 & Café, located at 82 Rolfe Square in Cranston.  Admission is “Pay What You Can” with a suggested donation of $5.00 per person.

Each Saturday is unique and guaranteed to engage and entertain your toddler and teen, your spouse and grandparent, and everyone in between.  Upcoming performances feature a line-up of theater professionals with experience entertaining families, youth, and children in puppetry, music, interactive storytelling, improvisational theater, dance, and more.

Photo6Ben GilbergBigNazo

“Laugh Out Loud” is every second Saturday of the month and “Big Day” is the last Saturday of the month.  Join “The Club” in “Laugh Out Loud” and be a member who follows the Club Rules: “Have Fun,” “Be You,” “Speak Your Mind,” “Play Games,” and “Dream Big.”  Act out stories, read and sing, be silly, and laugh with your new friends Lauren, Davey, Jessie, and Tommy.  In “Big Day,” you will celebrate daily holidays – ranging from favorites to rare to bizarre but incredibly fun – with Dr. Phineas P.T. Pretorius, festival presenter extraordinaire, and his sidekick, Larry, with sketches, stories, songs, and funny!

Sparky'spuppetspiratepostcardnotext-2Puppets and storytellers will delight you on the remaining dates with renowned performers including: the BIG NAZO Mini-Creature Show (November 21stJanuary 6th, and April 2nd), Marc Kohler, Sparky’s Puppets, and Marc Levitt.  Visit or contact Jessica Chace, Theatre Director, at 401-490-9475, for full schedule and information.

Artists’ Exchange is a nonprofit arts collaborative whose mission is to create an atmosphere in which creativity, learning, and discovery converge and individuality is celebrated.  Home to multiple art studios, a gallery, online art boutique, café, and secondary venue Theatre 82 & Characters Café; it offers year-round classes and summer camps in art, ceramics, theater, and music.  Artists? Exchange is operated by Gateways to Change, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all human beings.

JUMP!  Scenes from the Polar Express

JUMP! Scenes from the Polar Express

JUMP!, Providence’s premiere youth dance company will perform its holiday classic based on the book THE POLAR EXPRESS by local author, Chris Van Allsburg on December 21 at 2pm and 6 pm and on December 22 at 2 pm at The Nathan Bishop School, Providence, RI.

Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

This original dance-drama delights audiences of all ages. With a variety of dance styles and a weave of musical genres, SCENES FROM THE POLAR EXPRESS is both grand entertainment and a lesson in the timeless value of faith and belief.
JUMP! dancers are impeccably trained dancers who bring Van Allsburg’s simple but evocative story to life.  Costumes, creative props and set pieces add to the unforgettable experience of JUMP!’s “Polar”.

I recently caught up with artistic director, Mary-Paula Hunter to find out more about this collaborative production.

Mary Paula Hunter: “Polar” came about in 1999 when I discussed creating a holiday ballet with the J! dancers.  Jump! was just beginning at the time.  It was a new concept:  teach dancers how to choreograph and create great dance works.  I would not be the sole choreographer but we would make work collaboratively–I would act as mentor and at times choreographer but the overall work would come from the company.  Fueling a new generation of knowledgeable, skilled choreographers was my goal.

Dancers liked the idea of having their holiday performance.  In other words, if not the Nutcracker then what?  Could we have something as popular at the holiday time?  Could we compete with such a venerable production as the Nutcracker.

Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

We used a locally produced book, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and thought about how to best produce a danced version of the book. Although the final production came together a little at a time, the best work we decided, should come in carefully designed/choreographed “bits”. It was always based in a weave of dance styles and music.  We eschewed the Christmas essence and took the idea of “faith” and the idea of collage–a collage of music from around the world and our response to that music choreographically.  The overall production is almost like a variety show with a thread running through it and this is the journey based in belief or faith.
Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

Photo Credit: Mary Paula Hunter

Don’t miss this year’s SCENES FROM THE POLAR EXPRESS!  Tickets are available on JUMP!’S website: All tickets are $10.



Arabian Nights—Storytelling is the Magic Carpet Ride

Arabian Nights—Storytelling is the Magic Carpet Ride

The approaching holiday season marks the return of a unique and enchanting annual tradition, Arabian Nights at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA. This coproduction of The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater weaves striking sets, a captivating cast, imaginative puppetry and a magical retelling of a selection of the ancient tales, appropriate and engaging for an audience of children and adults alike.


The Cast of ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

As the frame story to the vast collection of Middle Eastern and Asian folktales goes, a distrusting ancient Persian king routinely marries, and the next day orders the execution of his bride before she has a chance to betray him. Shahrazad is the first bride to outwit the king, saving her life and warming his heart by telling him a gripping story, with a lingering cliffhanger, for each of the following 1,001 nights. In the production, Shahrazad is the heroine storyteller, spinning tales of suspense, romance and hilarity, animated to life on the colorful, ever-transforming stage by the cast and puppeteers.


The Cast of ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Arabian Nights puppets are not the hand-held type behind a mini-stage, but life-size, innovative and complex designs, like a polar bear constructed around one puppeteer while others manipulate his limbs and head. For a peek into the process, Central Square Theater posted the team workshopping the movement of this creature on their facebook page. It’s no wonder why stories and puppets delight us so much; just as the creators’ imaginations are tapped to give them life, the audience’s imaginations are stretched to believe them into life.


Alexander Cook and Andrew Tung in ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.


Arabian Nights
November 14—December 29, 2013
Shows: Thursday—Sunday, 2am and/or 7pm depending on day
Location: Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Tickets: $20—$54 for adults, $20 for children under 18, discounted tickets for students and seniors

Parking: University Park @ MIT Garage, 55 Franklin Street. $5 with validation ticket, available at Will Call Counter. Additional Parking and Directions information.

Food: Snack and drink concessions available at the theater (credit cards accepted). There are plenty of nearby restaurants including the charming Café Luna across the street serving weekend brunch.

Check out these ideas for making and animating puppets to life at home: Puppet Play.

Raising the Curtain: Theater with Kids

Raising the Curtain: Theater with Kids

By Jillian Finkle, Education Programs Coordinator, Providence Children’s Museum

This summer, Providence Children’s Museum debuts a new original theater production — After the Beanstalk: Jack, Jill and the Giant. The 20-minute interactive show expands upon the classic tale to explore ideas presented in the Museum’s newest exhibit, ThinkSpace. After Jack is kidnapped by the giant, he and his sister Jill enlist audience participation to solve spatial puzzles and challenges that the giant has invented to prevent their escape.

After the BeanstalkAfter the Beanstalk will be offered multiple times most Mondays in July and August, so families can see the performance more than once. This helps develop children’s understanding of the story and appreciation of the art of theater — as well as their attention spans! Children are invited to participate in several different ways and can also interact with the actors after the show.

Attending a performance at the Children’s Museum gives families a chance to sit down and rest and also expands opportunities for fun learning. Often performances relate to exhibits, programs or other play activities. For the youngest visitors, Museum performances provide a no-stress way to see if they are ready for theater-going — if they can’t sit still long enough yet, it’s no problem to leave in the middle of a show and then come back in again!

Beyond the Museum, theater provides many enjoyable educational opportunities for children. By its very nature, theater is about stories, and theatrical performances give children the chance to experience a story live in front of them. Children naturally pretend when they play, taking on different roles to explore their own identities and the world around them. Therefore children innately understand the idea that the actors and the story are pretend, happily connecting to the story and the characters. This is easier to do with live theater than TV or a movie, where images on a screen are enhanced with special effects and look so realistic that even adults might forget that it is all just “pretend.”

Because of the connection audiences feel when witnessing a story performed by live actors, theater helps children develop empathy. This is especially important in today’s increasingly technology-driven world, where interpersonal connections may be more superficial because of the vast amount of electronic mediation. Many experts cite a lack of empathy as a major contributor to societal ills such as the rise in violence among young people.

Theater has also been shown to contribute to the development of imagination, curiosity, literacy and creativity — all skills our children need to become the idea generators in workplaces of the future. And children who attend theater performances are more likely to grow up to become patrons and supporters of the arts.

If I’ve said enough to convince you, come by Providence Children’s Museum this summer to see our new show! If your children enjoy it, try taking them to another local performance intended for children. When you do, consider these tips:

  • Choose a show that your children will enjoy and check with the theater for age recommendations.
  • Review the plot ahead of time to avoid confusion during the performance. If the show is based on a book, read it first.
  • Discuss appropriate audience behavior beforehand.
  • Arrive early to use the bathroom and explore the physical space of the theater.
  • Talk about the show afterwards. Read or tell the story again, or look for reviews in the local paper to extend the experience.
  • Make theater going a regular activity and seek out more complicated shows as your child grows. It will soon become a tradition that is fun for the entire family to enjoy together!

photo credit: Providence Children’s Museum

War Horse: Behind the Play and With the Horses!

War Horse: Behind the Play and With the Horses!

A scene from War HorseIn this 13 minute video, Flick and Flack give you a sneak peak at War Horse. Filmed at a PPAC press event, this short film includes anecdotes from an interview with actor Brandon Drea and the Joey the horse puppeteers. Horse kisses, fascinating behind the scenes tidbits, the play’s trailer, and some incredible horse jumps! What more could you want? More info on the play, here.

Family Matters: Summer Staycations

Family Matters: Summer Staycations

Some of the best summer fun can be had close to home. Plan some staycation outings for August. Photo: Mood Board Photography.

Staycations have become a fashionable necessity during these days of higher gas prices and reduced work weeks, unemployment, or the fear of losing a job. For many, the idea of a pricey vacation is simply out of the question and for others this may be a preferred way to explore your community. Enjoy this list of ideas I originally wrote for the Kidoinfo Staycation Guide.

RISD Museum of Art

Museums, observatories, planetariums, zoos, and aquariums.

You may already have a favorite zoo or museum but for staycation fun, visit someplace new or revisit the familiar by starting at a different entrance or exhibit to see things you typically miss. Some places also offer sleepovers or special tours. Check if the venue has reduced entrance fees one day a week or a reciprocal arrangement with a place where you already hold a membership (e.g., one zoo membership may allow you into other zoos for free). Libraries often have free or discount passes to a number of local venu

Bonus Activity: Have kids keep a log of all the venues you visit, listing their favorite thing they did or saw.

Mini-adventures close to home

Plan a hike with your kids. Start at the local nature center to gather maps of local trails. In Rhode Island, the Audubon Center of Rhode Island has a number of wildlife refuges located all over the state. These trails are free and open to the public and offer trails of different lengths and levels. Local parks also provide many places to explore. One of our favorite ways to explore nature is to go letterboxing or geocaching, activities that combines the elements of hiking and treasure hunting.
Bonus Activity 1: Make/Design your own letterbox.
Bonus Activity 2: Play backyard bingo

How to be tourists in your own state

Although kids may go on tours as part of a school field trip, you may be able to arrange a special outing for your family or for your playgroup friends to get a behind-the-scenes look at a local business. Call ahead to find out if the business is willing to give you a tour and make arrangements. Tours ideas include: fire stations, police stations, movie theaters, television, radio stations, or newspaper facilities, ice cream shops, sports stadiums and farms.
Bonus Activity: Send a thank-you card. Have your kids draw, write, or include a picture of their favorite part of the tour.

Read more on GoLocalProv. Every week I share tips on how families can make the most of their family time – including helpful hints that make parenting easier and connecting you to great local happenings.