Friday, January 29, 2010

Imagination Stage Receives 4 Helen Hayes Award Nominations!

On Monday, January 25 the nominees for the 26th Annual Helen Hayes Awards were announced. For those of you not familiar with the Awards, they are given in recognition of excellence in professional theatre in the Washington DC area (think the Tony Awards in DC).

While this is always an exciting event and many outstanding artists and productions are recognized, this year was just a little more exciting for us here at Imagination Stage. There is a brand new award: Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences. Productions in this category must be geared for children age 12 and under. Out of the five nominations, three of them were Imagination Stage shows!

· Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth (Written and Directed by Psalmayene 24)
· Heidi (Written by Martha King De Silva and Joan Cushing, Directed by Janet Stanford)
· Lyle the Crocodile (Written by Kevin Kling, Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer)

Our three nominations are joined by The Kennedy Center’s production of Barrio Grrrl! and Synetic Theatre’s The Tale of the Fisherman and the Golden Fish.

Our fourth nomination was for the awesome Tara Giordano for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Resident Musical for her portrayal of Heidi!

These nominations are the result of the passion and hard work of a lot of talented and creative people over the past year. We couldn’t be more excited to have this hard work acknowledged.

The winners are announced at a ceremony on April 5. To read a full list of the nominees and to learn more about the great work that the Helen Hayes Awards organization does for the DC community, visit:

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Theatre that is truly created for very young children

For many years, I have been disturbed by the pressure on Imagination Stage to open our productions to children under age four. While I recognize that parents and teachers are nobly seeking arts experiences for pre-school children, I worry that most small children will be overwhelmed by a 400-seat theatre with amplified actors and a 75 minute-long story. I’ve often observed small siblings brought along to one of our shows who are more interested in how the seat flips up and down or in the dangly earrings that a lady in the next seat is wearing. And quite right, too. When you are very small, your immediate world is also small: Mom and Dad and siblings and home are your universe. And you are fully and rightfully engaged in learning the routines of daily life, the rhythms of nature and your first words.

Happily, with a Theatre Communications Group grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Imagination Stage has recently been able to create a play for young children that is an age-appropriate introduction to theatre for children ages 2-4. In our 40-minute play, Wake Up, Brother Bear!, children and caregivers are welcomed into a cozy environment. They are greeted by Sister Bear, who gives each child a small bag with some simple toys inside. Sitting on the floor around a circular playing area, children watch as Brother and Sister Bear discover the seasons of the year, meet a butterfly and chase an elusive fish. Children are invited to join in the action throughout the show. In spring they help transform pieces of silk into a “waterfall;” in summer they use tiny flashlights to suggest “lightening bugs” under a night sky: in autumn they throw leaves into the “lake” and see them dance and so forth. All the action is accompanied by live cello. Themes of the cycle of the seasons, sibling relationships and the dreams we pursue underpin the story, which is funny at times, but also reflective, gentle and a delightful exploration of young imaginations.

--Janet Stanford

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Power of the Imagination

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Power of Magical Thinking” underscores the raison d’etre of Imagination Stage. The article notes that research shows the importance of imagination in children’s cognitive development:

“ for years, imagination was thought of as a way for children to escape from reality, and once they reached a certain age, it was believed they would push fantasy aside and deal with the real world. But, increasingly child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality. Imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don’t directly experience, such as history or events on the other side of the world. For young kids, it allows them to ponder the future, such as what they want to do when they grow up.” [The Power of Magical Thinking, by Shirley S. Wang, the Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2009.]

When we created Imagination Stage (The Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts) 30 years ago, we didn’t know the psychological basis behind our innate understanding of the fact that a fully realized child needs continual and regular access to the three A’s: Academics, Athletics, Arts. That child will grow up to be the empowered, independent thinking, creative adult we need to manage our world – tomorrow.

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