Rakeem Lawrence stars as Bunny in 'Goodnight, Moon.' Photo by Adams VisCom

Goodnight, moon: Hello to theatre for a lifetime

In the video above, ‘Goodnight Moon’ Director Allison Watrous and Actor Rakeem Lawrence talk about bringing the beloved bedtime story to the stage. ‘Goodnight Moon’ runs through February 16, 2020. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

Theatre for Young Audiences production will introduce magic of live theatre to more than 40,000

Seventy-two years ago, Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Herd introduced the world to the “Great Green Room” and, with more than 48 million copies sold worldwide, Goodnight Moon has become a beloved classic. This fall, DCPA Education is presenting Chad Henry’s musical adaptation as part of its Theatre for Young Audiences program.

As arts budgets have been cut across many school districts, the Denver Center has developed TYA to open up access for students to experience live theatre. With student matinees of its mainstage plays already engaging thousands of high-school students, the Education team saw a further opportunity to produce aesthetically vibrant theatre for younger age groups.

Allison Watrous, Executive Director of Education and Community Engagement, dreams of having an entire season dedicated to young audiences, with shows for early childhood education through high-school students to encourage a lifetime of theatre engagement.

Rakeem Lawrence stars as Bunny in 'Goodnight, Moon.' Photo by Adams VisCom

Rakeem Lawrence stars as Bunny in ‘Goodnight Moon.’ Photo by Adams VisCom.

TYA productions focus on pre-kindergarden through third-grade students. The first mainstage performance for this age group was The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats, which engaged 19,000 students and families in the fall of 2017. Last year’s performances of Corduroy reached 26,000 audience members, and this year, the Education team hopes Goodnight Moon will engage an estimated 42,000. That represents audience growth of 121 percent in three years.

All three shows have been been aligned with the core curriculum for early childhood education. By connecting to teachers in this way, students are at the center of the experience of learning through storytelling. “Theatre promotes literacy,” Watrous said. “We want to partner with teachers and build this experience into their curriculum.”

“Theatre promotes literacy.” – Allison Watrous

Lisa Orzolek, the DCPA Theatre Company’s Director of Scenic Design, creates the settings for many of the company’s mainstage shows. And she applies the same creative standards to TYA productions.

“Just because they are small people doesn’t mean they are different from any other audience,” Orzolek said. “My job is to create the best environment to tell the story.” She and the rest of the design team use the book’s illustrations as source material to develop the look of the stage production. By bringing Herd’s illustrations to life, children get to step into the book, visualize the world, and experience the magic of live theatre, she said.

Theatre allows children to explore their artistic voices, and TYA is designed to help develop those voices. Studies have shown that introducing students to theatre at a young age builds their confidence, creativity and collaborative skills.

“When I was 6 years old, I saw Annie,” Watrous said. “My mom said I wouldn’t sit down. I placed my head right between the people in front of us. It was magic to see a story live on stage.”

Goodnight Moon. DCPA Education. Photo by John Moore.

The cast of ‘Goodnight Moon,’ from left: Rakeem Lawrence, Mercedes Perez. Susannah McLeod, Maggie Tisdale, Marco Robinsonand Sean Scrutchins. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Orzolek is married to DCPA Associate Technical Director Bob Orzolek, so their children became theatre connoisseurs at a young age. “My kids saw a lot of the process of theatre before they actually saw a show, so I would bring them to technical rehearsals,” she said. But she remembers watching them as they experienced live theatre for the first time.

“We were doing Peter Pan when my oldest was 3, and watching her watch the tech process was really fun. She only wanted to watch shows where they changed their clothes. She was intrigued by women in dresses and always wanted to see them in a different outfit, so musicals were her thing. Now she has an appreciation for the words, but then it was all about the visuals.”

Like most parents, Orzolek read Goodnight Moon to her children when they were little. So much so that she knows the whole thing by heart. “My cousin-in-law sent us the book and the stuffed bunny to our oldest,” Orzolek said. “She loved it.”

By expanding the well-known story into a stage musical, the imagination of the theatre meets the imaginations of thousands of children as they experience an entire performance in the Great Green Room.

Madison Stout is a receptionist and member of the security team as well as a contributing writer for the Communications Department at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. After graduating from Grove City College, where she was an editor and staff writer for The Collegian, she continues to pursue writing as an Education and Community Engagement journalist at the DCPA.

Goodnight Moon

  • Book, music and lyrics by Chad Henry, adapted from the book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
  • Dates: Performances through February 16
  • Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre
  • Tailored for pre-kindergarten through third-grade audiences
  • There will be an ASL interpreted and audio-described performance on November 9
  • Weekday student performances $10 and weekend performances $16-$20
  • Scholarships will be available for student groups
  • Tickets: Call 303-839-4100 or

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Photo gallery: Goodnight Moon

Photos by Adams VisCom