Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
Up to 20,000 area children will be introduced to live theatre
next fall through the story of a boy who discovers snow.
By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist
Although the Denver Center served more than 84,000 youth last year through its expansive education programs, it recently identified a gap: Live theatre was being exposed to virtually every age group except pre-school through 3rd graders. And educators believe it is crucial to introduce the vital force that live theatre can be in the lives of young people during those early years, said DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous.
Theatre has not only been shown to boost academic achievement among early childhood learners, “live performance can have a large impact on the way a kindergartner views and thinks about the world,” said Watrous. “This is a critical new audience base for the Denver Center to seek out and serve."
And so, starting in the fall, DCPA Education is launching its new Theatre for Young Audiences program. In full partnership with the DCPA Theatre Company, DCPA Education will stage 100 performances of The Snowy Day and Other Stories in the Conservatory Theatre. It is estimated that 20,000 children from around the metro area will see the production between Sept. 21 and Nov. 18.
“It is definitely a goal of the Education Department to make sure that we are engaging as many students as we can throughout the year through live performance,” Watrous said. “We think we are doing a fantastic job serving middle school and high school kids through our student matinee program; through our traveling Shakespeare in the Parking Lot program; and through our classes and workshops. But there is always more to do. And with The Snowy Day, now we have the opportunity to really open up the world to younger children.”
By expanding the focus to welcome early education students, “the DCPA will now serve a full spectrum of ages and expand its opportunities for youth by more than 20 percent,” said Suzanne Yoe, DCPA Director of Communications and Cultural Affairs.
The Snowy Day, written in 1962 by Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, tells the simple story of a boy named Peter and the wonder of his first encounter with snow. Only there was something revolutionary in the story’s sweet simplicity: Peter is a black child. “Ezra Jack Keats was a Caucasian writer, and that he chose to put an African-American child at the center of several of his books during the civil-rights movement was really extraordinary,” Watrous said.
The Denver Center production, which will last about an hour, will cover four books in the Snowy Day series – one for each season of the year (including Goggles, A Letter to Amy and Whistle for Willie.). So it essentially will cover a year of Peter’s childhood.
The play, told largely with the assistance of puppets, will be performed by three professional local actors and will benefit from the resources of the DCPA Theatre Company’s full-time creative staff: Director of Design Lisa Orzolek will create the set; Costume Crafts Director Kevin Copenhaver will design the costumes; and the lights will be designed by Charles MacLeod. Watrous promises a dynamic, tactile production in which all of the audiences’ senses are activated.
Most of the 100 performances will be held on weekdays for schools taking field trips to the Denver Center. Saturday performances will be open to the public. Tickets are $10, but the DCPA will make 9,000 “scholarships” (free tickets) available to teachers whose students need financial assistance to attend.
Because this will be many of the audiences' first exposure to live theatre, DCPA Education will expand the experience by making preparatory classroom materials available to teachers in advance. Schools are also welcome to stay after each performance for complementary (and complimentary!) workshops modeled after the story and presented by DCPA Education’s staff of Teaching Artists.
“As a large cultural institution within this community, it is important to the DCPA that we support schools, especially in the seven-county metro area, and advocate for arts and arts access for all students,” said Watrous, whose far-reaching involvement in the local theatre community includes directing the upcoming season-opening play The Revolutionists, by Lauren Gunderson (The Book of Will) for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company in September.
More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter
“If you cultivate the wonder of the arts at an early age, then that becomes part of the fabric of the learner - and the human being,” Watrous said. “Theatre makes you a stronger reader. Theatre makes you more collaborative. Theatre makes connections in your mind that can change how you look at a book, how you look at a painting, how you look at a sculpture and how you look at difficult issues in our world. Of all the beautiful transferable skills you can develop through live theatre, perhaps the most important is that it can make you more empathetic in how you view the world.
“I hope this is the beginning of something really fantastic.”
Ths month, Well not anymore! Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Education is launching its first Theatre for Young Audiences program, which features two productions in 2017 Oily Cart’s In a Pickle
Sneak peek: Oily Car's In a Pickle
A small group of Denver schoolchildren are getting a taste of what is to come from the Theatre for Young Audiences program this month with In a Pickle, an interactive children's story that is being presented May 19-26 as a co-production between DCPA Education, New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This performance draws upon the inquisitive nature of children ages 2-5. Using all of their senses, these tiny audience members embark on a voyage of discovery through an excerpt from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale that features fancy costumes, live music, perfumes and textures to explore along the way.
The story begins when the Shepherdess and her flock of sheep have a party to celebrate the sheep shearing. When they come across a lost baby, the children must follow the clues to determine what to do in search of a happy ending.
Due to the interactive nature of the play, audience size is extremely limited. An invited group of 30 children per performance is attending In a Pickle from the Clayton Early Learning and Montclair, Barnum and Polaris elementary schools.
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.
The Snowy Day and Other Stories: Ticket information
- Written by Ezra Jack Keats; adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
- Sept. 21-Nov. 18
- School Performances: Weekdays 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. (except Thursdays are at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.)
- Public Performances: Saturdays, time TBA
- Conservatory Theatre, located in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education
- 1101 13th St., Denver, CO
- Tickets $10 (discounts and scholarships available)
- Best suited for: Pre-K through third grade
- Teachers: Inquire by clicking here or calling 303-446-4829
- Public weekend performances will go on sale at a later date