Guess what I did on Saturday morning? Nope, I wasn't shoveling
snow, watching my little one watch TV, or straightening up my
disaster of a hall closet. I was at iO's Story
Town. And, alongside lots of other Chicago parents and kids, I
was laughing. Hard. How had I not heard of this place before?
I'll admit it - I'm not so into a lot of the kids' activities
I've experienced over the last five years. Yes, I support all of
those events and places my daughter finds fun, but mentally I'm
sitting at Starbucks or a Starbucks-like café, reading the paper
and sipping on a decaf, nonfat latte. Maybe I'm not supposed to
admit this, but chasing her around a park or feigning excitement
over pretend grocery shopping does not exactly make for my perfect
Saturday morning, as much as I know it's incredibly important for
her physical and psychological development and socialization
skills. That's why I'm so psyched about Story Town.
This improvisational show, put on by a group of talented actors
no older than about 32, is entertaining, creative, silly, witty,
and laugh-out-loud funny - for kids and adults. It starts off with
most of the kids sitting on stage, drawing pictures. I have no idea
what happens with those pictures, but it's a nice way to break the
ice. After drawing for a bit, the kids get kicked off stage, but in
a polite way, and about 12 performers hit the stage.
An emcee helps the crowd pick the topic of the show, and then
the kids go back up on stage to draw on large pieces of paper to
create a background for the upcoming performance. Following this,
the actors take over, making up songs, dances, jokes, and entire
stories around the audience's chosen theme. It's pure magical
My first impression (as well as my second and even my third)
was, boy, are they funny. I mean really funny. To my surprise, all
of the pieces fit together and the overall experience was truly
entertaining. Sure, a few of the jokes were met with awkward
silence, as is always the case at improv shows. But for the
most part, both kids and adults were holding their tummies in
laughter. Even days later, I still have one song, "Rock Candy
Sand," stuck in my mind.
As for age, I looked around and noticed most of the children at
the performance that I attended were at least four years old. My
sense is that the sweet spot for this type of experience is around
four to eight (depending on the child, because we all know that our
children are geniuses). Those a little younger seemed a bit
clueless, and those who were older stayed next to their parents
most of the time.
Now let me put on my 'tough guy' critic's hat for a sec, lest
you think I've misplaced it. This type of show is not for every
child. I won't be specific, since she shares my DNA, but one little
girl was just not into running up on stage or screaming out answers
in a crowd of 30+. And the story itself, with a few unexpected
twists and turns, might rattle the more astute and detail-oriented
storytellers in the audience. Also, if you're expecting your child
to build his academy award-winning acting skills at Story Town,
this is not the place; kids were not on stage as much as I thought
Those points aside, this event is definitely at the top of my
list now for things to do on a Saturday morning. The cast makes it
all worthwhile. They're energetic and excited to be performing, and
I love watching them cheer each other on. It's like watching
college basketball circa 1986: talented players working for the
rebounds, following their shots, and savoring each moment. Plus,
it's only five bucks a ticket. Now that's enough to make even the
grouchiest of parents smile.
To learn more about Story Town, click here!
By Wendy Widom, Families in the
Wendy Widom is CEO of Familes in the Loop (FITL), Chicago's hippest hub for parents and kids.
See more of Wendy 's stories here.
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