First-Ever New York Children's Theater Festival Debuts on the Upper West Side This Weekend
Last week when I posted about the best stage shows for families this spring, I intentionally left out the New York Children's Theater Festival. That's because I felt a venture like this deserved its own dedicated post.
While we're lucky to have the New Victory and lots of local family troupes, and the Fringe Festival offers a handful of FringeJr productions every year, this is the first time anyone has launched an entire theater festival aimed specifically at kids in New York City. Pretty hard to believe when you consider that NYC is a mecca for theater (not to mention families).
Who finally came up with the idea for the New York Children's Theater Festival? A mom of course, who also happens to be an actress, and two other industry professionals with a background in kids' theater. Over the next three weekends, the fest will present a trio of family musicals on the Upper West Side. We've got the scoop on the shows and how the NYCTF may improve NYC's children's theater scene.
The New York Children's Theater Festival was created by Michael Shawn Lewis, one of the producers of John Tartaglia's Off Broadway kid hit ImaginOcean; Chelsey Shannon, who has appeared in children's theater and also has a marketing background; and Renee Barnett, an actress and mom to a preschooler. The three friends looked around and agreed that, while there is a lot of children's theater in NYC, there wasn't a festival that could nurture the creation of brand-new family shows. So they gathered an impressive judging panel, including Kevin “Elmo” Clash, Jim Henson's daughter Cheryl Henson and puppeteer John Tartaglia, and started seeking submissions.
For its inaugural season, the NYCTF will present the three winning shows at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater:
Go Green! Prince Charming's Quest for Love and Ecology in NYC
Friday, April 20 at 5:30pm and Saturday, April 21 at 11am and 2:30pm
A modern-day royal is forced to choose between his passion for saving the Earth or going on a quest for his true love in this musical fairy tale.
Scheme of the Superbullies
Friday, April 27 at 5:30pm and Saturday, April 28 at 11am and 2pm
In this goofy musical comedy, a mad scientist forms the League of Super Bullies but he doesn't count on running into Princess Dodgeball and her pals.
The Velveteen Rabbit
Friday, May 4 at 5:30pm and Saturday, May 5 at 11am and 2pm
The fest's one page-to-stage adaptation is based on Margery Williams' beloved book and features live actors and puppets.
There will also be an awesome special event for ticket holders to the fest's closing day on May 5. In between the 11am and 2pm shows, audiences can enjoy performances by Rosie's Kids, and Carole Demas and Paula Janis, stars of the classic NYC children's TV show The Magic Garden from the '70s (I remember them so well! "We'd like to say hello...") Plus, the Story Pirates will have an activity booth. That's the day I plan on going!
While the NYCTF is starting small, I get excited when I think about its potential. Just look at all of the amazing shows that have come out of the (admittedly much bigger) Fringe Festival over the years. Plus, the founders of the NYCTF are passionate about quality family theater. These won't be dinky productions: All three shows are being professionally mounted, mostly with union performers. Overall, the NYCTF's goal is to develop new shows while fostering new audiences, because there's no point in putting on kids' shows unless children are there to cheer them on. That's a sentiment we can totally get behind.
All shows takes place at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater in the West Side YMCA, 5 West 63rd Street between Broadway and Central Park West. Tickets are $18.
- This Week: Kids' Concerts, Where to See Cherry Blossoms, Birthday Freebies, Children's Theater Festival
- BAM is Expanding Its Family Programming for 2013
- Discount Theater Tickets for Kids: Subscribe for these family-friendly New York City shows
- This Week: Free Spring Festivals, Best New Theater Shows for NYC Kids, Tribeca Film Festival for Families