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Children’s Theatre gets into the groove for its new season

by Mark Burger

One of the most durable theaters of its kind in the entire nation, the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem launches its 69 by Mark Burger contributing columnist th season with yet another grand selection of family favorites for audiences of all ages.

The party starts next weekend with the season’s opening production of Blue’s Clues and a kick-off celebration Sunday, Oct. 4.

Based on the popular, Peabody Award-winning Nickelodeon series, this live-action musical adventure follows Steve, Blue and all their friends as they embark on a wild adventure through the Story Book Forest and beyond, as they attempt to discover “the Most Spectacular Place.” Doing so will employ all of their skills as sleuths, and will also depend on their cooperation and teamwork.

Showtimes for Blue’s Clues are 10 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. Oct. 2; 11 a.m. Oct. 3; 2 p.m.

Oct. 4. The season kick-off celebration will follow the Sunday performance, replete with food, fun and undoubtedly a few surprises for those in attendance — including the opportunity to meet and greet Blue himself.

The Children’s Theatre will again be mixing it up this season, with family classics (The Velveteen Rabbit, The Rainbow Fish, The Shoemaker and the Christmas Elves), contemporary favorites (Esperanza Rising, If You Give a Pig a Pancake & Other Storybooks) and historical dramas (Harriet Tubman & the Underground Railroad) adding diversity to the season. Many of these shows are designed to relate directly to scholastic curriculum in literature, science and history — yet another component of the theater’s ongoing popularity.

Many theater companies that have previously brought their productions to the Children’s Theatre are back again this season, including TheatreWorks USA and Jim West Puppet Productions (from New York), Theatre IV (from Virginia) and Arts Power (from New Jersey). This season also marks the first time that the Children’s Theatre has teamed up with Twin City Stage and the Hispanic Arts Initiative.

There’s no secret to the Children’s Theatre’s sustained success and its standing in the Piedmont Triad community, according to general manager Karen McHugh.

“Our importance to the community, I think, lies in our ‘live-ness,’” she says. “We have seen a growth in individual ticket sales through the years, as families find us affordable, easy to travel to, but most importantly, a healthy break from the ubiquitous flat screen. We are three-dimensional, alive and, for the most part, the very first live theater experience for these kids.”

Thus far, says McHugh, “[The] new season is doing extremely well,” and she’s particularly excited by Blue’s Clues and Esperanza Rising, two shoes which the Children’s Theatre is self-producing. “Some of the middle schools have Esperanza Rising on their reading lists,” she notes.

“We can be restricted in our programming due to theater availability, touring company schedules and show content, so doing our own programming gives us complete control.”

Another major component of the Children’s Theatre success is the continued support of its theater’s sponsors, in particular the organizational support grant provided by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.

“Without their funding, we could not manage,” says McHugh. “Their belief in our mission is key in our maintaining our high standards with good, quality programming.”

Next up for the Children’s Theatre is the ArtsPower production of The Rainbow Fish, based on Marcus Pfister’s best-selling children’s novel. Showtimes are 10 a.m. and noon Oct. 16 and 11 a.m. Oct. 17. In December, the Children’s Theatre rings in the holiday season with the Theatre IV production of The Shoemaker and the Christmas Elves, which puts a light-hearted spin on the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm. The theater then celebrates the new year with its presentation of Esperanza Rising in January.

All Children’s Theatre productions are presented at the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem). Tickets are $8 (general admission) and $12 (premium seating, for evening and weekend shows only). Given the popularity of Children’s Theatre shows, reservations are strongly suggested. There are also a number of ticket packages available, including the Discounted Family Season Pass, the Saturday Matinee Pack, and the Family Four Pack.

For tickets or more information, call 336.725.4531 or see www.childrenstheatrews.org.Email your comments to marksburger@yahoo.com

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