Theater for babies and toddlers in Chicago


 
 

By Alena Murguia

Contributor
 

How young is too young for live theater? At Chicago Children's Theatre, the answer is "you never are."

A co-production with Seattle Children's Theatre, "Dot & Ziggy" is a show geared toward kids ages 6 months to 4 years.

"Baby and toddler theater has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years in Europe so I was excited," says Linda Hartzell, Seattle Children's Theatre's artistic director and the play's creator. "Live theater should be engaging, entertaining and accessible. It's never too early to begin integrating those qualities into a child's life."

"Dot & Ziggy" tells the tale of a ladybug and skunk who are neighbors, but not yet friends.

"We use easy-to-understand themes such as 'alike' and 'different' to further the plot and to get kids involved in storytelling," explains Hartzell.

As the two actors explore a friendship, children participate in the journey both physically and verbally. In other words, the theater is not asking toddlers to sit still and listen. They are actively encouraged to do neither.

"Ultimately, our goal is for babies and toddlers to have fun, feel comfortable, and recognize their physical and emotional worlds through performance and playful experience," says Chicago Children's Theater Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell.

To achieve this goal, the play also has to appeal to parents, who also are encouraged to participate.

"Until now, parents here have never had the same opportunity to spend quality time with their little ones in an interactive, live theater experience that promotes early childhood development, literacy and the importance and power of play," Russell says.

Performances will be at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre. While shows will take place in a rehearsal room, they still boast the high-quality costumes, set design and top-notch acting these companies are known for.

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