Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jim and Carol Trawick Donate $2.5 Million to Imagination Stage!

Imagination Stage’s Board, staff and friends are celebrating the gift of $2,500,000 from Jim and Carol Trawick. This extraordinary donation, to be given over 10 years, will complete Phase One of Imagination Stage’s “Campaign to Secure the Future,” finishing payment of construction for Imagination Stage’s theatre arts center. Announcement of the gift, at the 30th Anniversary Gala on October 24, was truly a magic moment, greeted with whoops, tears and a standing ovation.

Imagination Stage Founder/Executive Director Bonnie Fogel stated that “Jim and Carol Trawick have made a magnificent gesture to the families in our community. Their gift ensures the sustainability of Imagination Stage now… and forever…. for generations to come. We are inordinately grateful.” Carol Trawick described the gift this way: “It’s all about the children! We’ve seen Imagination Stage grow over the years, following it and supporting it for at least 25 of its 30 years. And the key is that it has remained true to its mission: to bring a wonderful light to children’s lives--the arts, and all of the energy and creativity that it sparks within them. The future echoes the past: the children, the children, the children.”
Phase Two of Imagination Stage’s “Campaign to Secure the Future” is to develop an operating reserve fund, an essential component of a sustainable not-for-profit institution. Thanks to the Trawick gift, Imagination Stage begins Phase Two of the campaign with vigor, enthusiasm and, as always, ambitious plans for fulfilling our mission!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thoughts on the Kids Euro Festival

On Sunday, Oct. 25, Imagination Stage Artistic Director Janet Stanford and I joined a group of 100 or so parents and children at the French Embassy attending a puppet show presented as part of the Kids Euro Festival 2009. The show, A Twist on an Old Story: Pinocchio, ran about 30 min. and was performed by Daniele Contu, who operated 4 puppets during the show. Janet and I were pleased to note that this was not the typical telling of Pinocchio, but, as the performer explained afterward, retold as if from a teenage Pinocchio’s point of view. We were amazed to see several new characters added to this version, including the figure of Death (complete with silver sythe), the Devil and even the Pope. In this free adaptation, Pinocchio actually kills his father, then repents hysterically and finally goes to Hell to try to retrieve him. After meeting the Pope and being forgiven for his sins, the boy and his father return to earth, “reborn.” While the show was advertized for ages 6-10, there were very small children in the audience and we noted that most of the audience appeared to be a mix of nationalities. The children were completely engaged with the puppets and the storytelling and because it was very physical and comic at times, no one appeared uncomfortable or bored with the action of the play.

During the post-show discussion, we observed that the international audience did not appear to be bothered by the sight of such characters as Death or the Devil, or even by the quite brutal act of Pinocchio killing his father by beating him with a stick. The audience seemed to understand that this take on the story is totally from the artist’s perspective. It is true that in the original story, Pinocchio “kills” Gepetto by disappointing him time and time again until in the end, he reforms and does go to great lengths to save his father from the belly of the whale. While I do not think that an American audience would be so accepting of such a beloved tale taken to such extremes, we were fascinated to see that at this European festival, the audience was quite accepting of the idea. We wonder why this is?

Is it because in America, we have been so “Disneyfied” that we expect all stories for kids to be sugar coated? Do we as a culture merely expect art to affirm and reinforce what we already believe? And why are we so afraid for our children to see characters like Death or the Devil in our shows? Doesn’t going to the theatre, and having your child question what they have seen offer a great opportunity to discuss the very topics that we parents and teachers find hardest to address with our kids? How do we uncover children’s deepest fears and wildest fantasies? How do we help them to recognize that while everybody occasionally has bad thoughts, we do not have to act upon them. And a show that exposes the horror of patricide to a 6-year old may actually be a healthy way to expel that little devil that whispers in your ear when Dad says “no” to some toy or privilege that you cannot have! Could it be that a somewhat shocking show such as A Twist on an Old Story: Pinocchio offers a safety valve for young imaginations? Perhaps if Oedipus had seen this play when he was little, for example, his infamous tragedy could have been averted!

--Kathryn Chase Bryer, Associate Artistic Director, Imagination Stage

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kids Euro Fest: a Gift to the DC Community

There is a glorious, almost-new arts opportunity for children and families in the Washington metro area that I want to encourage you to take advantage of. The 27 countries of the European Union have banded together to present the second ever Kids Euro Festival 2009 beginning this weekend and playing at a variety of venues around the region until November 9. This is a tremendous gift to our already arts rich community. But there are so many reasons why you should step outside your usual box of things-to-do-with the kids to check this out. Let me count the ways!

Many European countries are noted for the tremendous artistry of the work they create for children. While the touring productions in this festival feature small casts, they are likely to astound you with their originality and inventiveness.

The festival includes theatre, puppetry, music, mime and magic but my bet is that you’ll find the lines blurring between your usual experiences of any and all of those performance categories. Imagine, for instance, a magic show that treats you to ideas as well as tricks!
You may want to track down some art that relates to your own family’s heritage
Or see an authentic Italian puppet version of an Italian classic like Pinocchio
Or try an un-title like many of these shows which are generated by artists from their own interests and ideas with complete disregard for box office appeal!

Having had the good fortune to travel to many international festivals through my work at Imagination Stage, I can promise you that the effort it takes to book your tickets on line and find some of the unfamiliar venues will be worthwhile. Of the well known titles on offer, I can recommend Little Red Riding Hood by the Patrasket Company of Denmark since I saw it there last year. The two charming performers relate the story with tremendous humor. It is a decidedly low-tech production but somehow this is also a part of the show’s charm.

Other pieces with titles unfamiliar to most Americans but that intrigue me from the brochure descriptions include:
Snufkin and Moomin from Finland
A Stitch in Time Saves Time, a play with a Sewing Machine and Paper from Germany
Hakim, the Dream Robber from The Netherlands, and
Orjan, the Eagle Afraid of Heights from Sweden

You can find the entire list and reserve seats on line at In addition to the live shows, there are several movies and interactive workshops. While I know that A Story of Bravery & Love from the Czech Republic is already booked out, as of this writing there are still seats for the two offerings at Imagination Stage:

Oct 17 at 11 AM A film for ages 4+ Folimage Cartoon Madness from France
Nov 7 at 10 AM and 11:30 AM for ages 3+ Amazing Dreams from Spain

Oh, and did I mention this is all FREE!? Well, it is! Just go, and go, and go as I plan to myself. And if I see something I think you shouldn’t miss, check this space. I plan to be writing all month.

--Janet Stanford, Artistic Director, Imagination Stage

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Your Child's Health!

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has an innovative new program to foster “children’s physical, emotional and intellectual health.” Called “Culture Shot,” and written up in the Christian Science Monitor, it provides each child who has a check-up two free tickets to the theatre as the child leaves the doctor’s office.

The premise behind this effort is that “culture fosters better health habits.” And Culture Shot accomplishes two very important aims: making clear that culture is a basic nutrient and not a luxury, and that everyone should experience theatre, regardless of family or social background. We at Imagination Stage whole-heartedly believe in this kind of holistic approach to child development and education and in universal access to the arts for children. So, even as the flu season bears down, we hope to see you at Ferdinand the Bull or at Disney’s Mulan and we wish you and your children Gesundheit.


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