From the get-go, Chicago Shakespeare Theater has targeted kids. Introducing youngsters to live theater, especially the works of William Shakespeare, has been a key part of its mission since its first production in 1986, says Executive Director Criss Henderson.
Continuing that tradition, the theater presents three family-friendly works this summer (two are Shakespeare adaptations) as part of its LaSalle Bank Family Festival of Plays on Navy Pier: “The Princess and the Pea,” “Short Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors” and “The Second City’s Romeo and Juliet the Musical.” All shows run through mid-August.
Production choices are based on classic stories, Henderson says, and “pairing the heart and soul of these works with brilliant actors. When you bring these two together it’s magic for children and adults.”
“The Princess and the Pea” ($18 adults, $15 kids) is a musical adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale. Henderson says it is geared toward 4- to 11-year-olds, though some toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy it too.
“The Comedy of Errors” ($18 adults, $15 kids), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s farce about mistaken identity, is geared toward preteens, though Henderson thinks kids as young as 5 will find it entertaining.
For the third year, the theater pairs up with Second City for its PG-13 offering, “The Second City’s Romeo and Juliet Musical” ($25-30). This send-up of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy targets teens and their parents. Henderson recommends parental guidance because of the production’s comedy-club language.
Henderson believes it’s important for families to share live theater. “A live theater experience shared between a parent and child goes beyond the play,” Henderson says. “It’s great to see that experience through a child’s eye,” he says.
Roz Supera agrees. Two years ago the Chicago grandmother treated her granddaughter Isabel Supera, then 3, to the theater’s production of “Peter Pan.” It was a hit.
“She was just enraptured,” Supera says. “She never talked. She never got out of her seat.”
That led to an encore trip to see “The Little Mermaid” last summer, another positive experience.
“I loved the two productions I saw with my granddaughter. I enjoyed them as much as she did,” Supera says. “It all was well done. The performances are professional and it was a delightful experience.”
And this summer? Well, Supera won’t be taking Isabel because Isabel’s mom is accompanying her instead—along with a group of friends.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is located at 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier. Call (312) 595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com. Jennifer Burklow