When Chicago Children's Theatre opens its newest production "Harold and the Purple Crayon," it will be the premiere show in its first permanent home. After operating on an itinerant basis for its first six seasons, the company recently announced its designation as Artist-in-Residence at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.
"We are so glad to be in residence at such an iconic Chicago theater," says CCT Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, who hopes to continue the streak of successful companies such as Lookingglass and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, both of which called Ruth Page home. Ruth Page is not completely new to CCT's audiences. In fact, the 2010 production of "Jackie and Me," an outstanding look at the life and achievements of Jackie Robinson, was produced at Ruth Page.
The location at 1016 N. Dearborn offers a neighborhood feel, plus convenient parking. "For families, an evening of theater is much more than the actual show. It's a complete experience. Parents need to know where to eat and where to park. Having one location for all of our shows will allow us to build our audience base," she says.
Russell also admits that having a single spot will mean the company can spend more time focusing on producing instead of securing a venue for each show. This is great news for local families, as CCT has already established itself as one of the city's best children's theaters.
The Ruth Page theater space lends itself well to the kind of intimate work for which the company is known. In keeping with the "complete experience" theme, on Thursday evenings families can arrive early (5:30 p.m.) for a pre-show pizza party, compliments of Piece Pizza and Izze. Friday evenings are pajama parties where guests wear their PJs and take part in pre-show activities, plus a chance to meet the cast after the show.
As for the upcoming production, families can expect "Harold and the Purple Crayon" to engage all of their senses with music, puppetry and animation to tell the story of a boy who uses his imagination to create his own world.
"One of our challenges in designing this show was to be true to Harold's world. Everything created for this production has to look like it came from a purple crayon. I think audiences will be amazed at what they see," says Russell.
Russell expects Harold to inspire children and parents to use their imaginations not only to create something new, but to solve problems.
Now that she has secured a good home for her company, she can focus on continuing to hire the best actors, designers and directors for every show.
"We are the gateway for children to experience live theater before they're ready for places like Goodman. I will continue to hire Chicago artists who are the top of their craft because the children in our audience deserve nothing but the best."
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.