It's probably fair to say that most parents avoid taking their
kids to the theater because it involves sitting still and being
quiet for an extended period of time - not really most kids'
That's why Emerald City Theatre's new production, "The Teddy
Bears' Picnic," is a great option for giving your little ones a
little taste of theater. They're allowed to stand, outbursts are
expected and, best of all, interaction is the name of the game. So
much so that when my 17-month-old nephew decided to walk to the
front of the room and give the chipmunk puppet a kiss, no one even
blinked an eye.
Of course, it's not "Othello." The sweet story - dubbed a "Play
with Me Play" - doesn't have a complicated plot, given that it's
aimed at kids birth-4. Rather, it's the basic story of a Mama Bear
(Amanda Hartley) and her cub, Buddy (a puppet manned by Cameron
Turner or Bella Coelho), who set out to have a picnic lunch in the
woods. Along the way, kids "help" with different tasks using items
from their picnic basket (each family or group gets one to share).
They'll love the fun sound effects and music - the buzzing bee is a
favorite - not to mention the opportunities to directly interact
with the play's characters (stick around for the chance to hug
Buddy at the end of the show).
And while parents might worry about their little ones wandering
around, borrowing items from other people's baskets, or making too
much noise, it truly doesn't faze the cast. When they say it's a
"no rules" theater experience, they're not kidding.
Although the show captured my nearly 4-year-old nephew's
attention, it seems best geared at kids in the 2-3 range - old
enough to understand what's going on but still captivated by the
puppets and props. But if your tykes are on the younger end, it
provides a great first-time exposure to the world of theater. And
at 45-minute running time, it's an ideal length for short attention
The performance takes place in Emerald City's new Little
Theatre, an ultra kid-friendly space with bright colors and even a
coffee station for caffeine-deficient moms and dads. If you arrive
early, be sure to take advantage of the fun toys, huge magnetic
wall and various colorful "poofs" for kids to climb. And be sure to
bring along socks for everyone in your party - The Little Theatre
is a shoe-free studio, all the better for getting up and walking
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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