In a dark auditorium on Cleveland’s near west side, a curly-haired girl of 5 or 6 is standing on her seat passionately shouting instructions to a woman on stage. It’s a Sunday matinee at Talespinner Children’s Theatre, and this little girl is lost in the magic of the story. Danger momentarily quelled, the small girl settles back into her seat and watches.
Start with Something Familiar
This brief moment offers a glimpse into how people interact with stories and shows the impact that a good narrative has when paired with the power of imagination. Live theater can be a road into endlessly imaginative worlds. So how can you give such an experience to your own youngsters? Get your kids’ feet wet with Weathervane Playhouse’s current production of “The Little Mermaid,” running through Aug. 13. This is the Disney telling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, which means that your kids probably already know the story well. Knowing the songs ahead of time can help introduce your kids to the world of theatre seamlessly.
For a more structured introduction, consider signing your 3- to 6-year-old up for Weathervane’s “Under the Sea” camp for little ones, set for Aug. 7-11. Weathervane offers a wide range of camps, classes, and performances. If your kids are interested in getting on stage, they can audition for shows and become part of the action.
If your family loves to read together, perhaps one of the stage adaptations of classic children’s literature would be the ideal fit. Check out Lorain County Metroparks’ French Creek Theatre and its production of “Annie” December 1-17. Or try Magical Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” October 13-22 and “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe” December 1-17.
Got an age-range challenge to satisfy? Take your mixed-age family group up to Rabbit Run Theater to enjoy the mixed-up fairytale fun of Steven Sondheim’s classic “Into the Woods,” running Aug. 11-27. This show offers a scrambled take on many famous fairytales while exploring more adult themes. Located along the Lake Erie shore, Rabbit Run mounts its shows in a rare, historic barn theatre.
Getting into the Action
Many children learn best by participating, so take them to visit Talespinner Children’s Theatre, Cleveland’s only professional theatre for children. At Talespinner, kids can get involved with every play through pre-show games and activities, in-show participation elements, and after-show opportunities to meet the cast, ask questions, and take pictures. At this Cleveland gem, each show is a world premiere written, directed, and performed by local professional talent. The next show, “The Rainbow Serpent,” runs Sept. 16 through Oct. 8, and every show at Talespinner comes with a free educational guide so you can make the most of the learning experience for your kids.
If you’ve got older kids, take them to Geauga Lyric Theater Guild to see “In the Heights,” running Aug. 4-20, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton.” If that goes well, sign them up to usher this season at Playhouse Square, where they will get to see an array of different productions.
Cleveland is, after all, home to the largest performing arts center outside of New York City: Playhouse Square. High school-aged kids can get involved in the theatre scene by participating in the STARS program (Students Take a Role at the Square). Applications for the 2017-18 STARS program will be available Aug. 14. Playhouse Square has you covered with offerings for younger kids, too. Check out the full list from Playhouse Square’s Children’s Theater Series. With older kids in the STARS program, take your younger kids to see “Hansel and Gretel” this October — and just like that, your whole family can be a part of this famous Cleveland institution.
Looking for theatre and other enrichment activities for your kids? Check out our Northeast Ohio Enrichment Activities Guide.