Early Childhood Shows and Education Programs Abound This Winter At Imagination Stage

As 2023 starts, Imagination Stage welcomes the very youngest theater-goers and learners to its robust early childhood programming for ages 1-5. The programming, called “My First Imagination Stage,” comes in these forms:

  • “You and Me” classes, where children ages 1-3 attend classes and workshops with a caregiver,

  • creative drama classes for ages 3-5,

  • very popular professional theater for ages 1-5.

Early 2023 sees the return of two beloved shows: Aquarium, running January 14 – February 12, 2023; and Wake Up, Brother Bear, running March 11 – April 8, 2023.

Both shows feature the signature sensory-based, gently interactive, and thoroughly welcoming approach that has made Imagination Stage a national leader in theater for the very young. Children sit in a circle on the stage, surrounding the actors and scenic elements. During every show there is live music-making and each child (and some grown ups) has a chance to get in the act. Tickets are $16.50 (including all fees) for all ages.

Aquarium is by Petro Chiarenza and Patrick Lynch and directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer, Imagination Stage’s Associate Artistic Director. The show invites the audience to be part of a magical world created especially for the very young. With gentle music and beautiful puppets and props, the actors lead children and caregivers through an underwater environment featuring a giant jellyfish, a grassy patch where sheep graze, a garden, and a “let’s pretend” sky. The cast is Edmée Marie Faal and John Sygar. Watch a video about the show here. Press is invited to the show beginning January 14 at 11:15 am ASL-interpreted performance is January 29 at 10:00.

Wake Up, Brother Bear is by Janet Stanford and Kathryn Chase Bryer, and directed by Bryer. The story follows Brother and Sister Bear as they cycle through a full year of glorious seasons. Together they see a waterfall melt, meet a butterfly, chase an elusive fish, and skate on an icy pond. Children receive a small bag of props that help them create magical moments. The cast is Tre’mon Mills and Lily Burka. Press is invited to the show beginning March 26 at 11:15 am ASL-interpreted performance is March 26 at 10:00.

Bryer describes these shows as “visceral experiences, during which children take in the play through all their senses. The shows are image-based, because their language comprehension is limited. As a parent, it is fascinating to watch your child process and react to the story they are immersed in.” Bryer and Stanford, Imagination Stage’s Founding Artistic Director, have produced eight different shows for very young audiences since 2010, four of which they developed and wrote at Imagination Stage. Those plays, including Wake Up, Brother Bear, are published by Plays for New Audiences, and have been produced around the country.

Stanford confirms that the image-based storytelling structure of Aquarium and Wake Up, Brother Bear “allows young ones to check out and check back in without missing crucial information. It engages children because it is geared toward how they process and respond to information.”

Complementing the shows are many classes and summer camp offerings for young children. Imagination Stage offers 6-week early childhood classes and Saturday Song Circle and Sunday Fun Day drop-in classes, all providing opportunities for play and for interactive, sensory-based learning experiences.

The goal is to introduce young children to the world of theater and dance while also building lifelong skills such as teamwork, sharing, confidence building, and gaining independence. Class takers develop gross motor skills through movement activities and fine motor skills through visual art projects. They learn basic music skills, and learn to use the four “Actor’s Tools” of body, voice, mind, and imagination through dramatic play.

“My First Imagination Stage” focuses on ages 1-5, recognizing “play” as the “work” of early childhood development. Through live performances, workshops, and classes, “My First Imagination Stage” creates fun and developmentally exciting experiences for the very young and their caregivers. A national leader in Theater for the Very Young, Imagination Stage began focusing on the youngest of theatergoers in 2010 with the world premiere of Wake Up, Brother Bear! To date, My First Imagination Stage has welcomed guest artists from Italy, Great Britain, Spain, and Germany, and has developed many acclaimed world premiere productions including Wake Up, Brother Bear!, Mouse on the Move, and Mother Goose. Just like its audiences, My First Imagination Stage keeps growing!

Founded 43 years ago, Imagination Stage is a holistic theater arts organization for all children and youth. Through award-winning professional theater, arts education, and community-based theater programming, the organization helps children and young people develop a deep appreciation of theater arts, while building a sense of self and social understanding. Based in Bethesda, MD, its programming serves children and families throughout the DMV.

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