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Children's Theater Not Just For the Kiddies

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 23, 2008 7:56PM

There are no shortage of opportunities to see a theater performance in Chicago, and that certainly applies to children’s theater or theater based on children’s literature. A number of of these productions have enjoyed some popular success as well. This goes to show that these performances are not attended only by dutiful schoolchildren, but are considered to be viable options in the Chicago theater scene, due to the effort and imagination that goes into adapting children’s literature for the stage.

Take, for example, The Snow Queen, based on the wintry tale by Hans Christian Anderson and which celebrated its second season at the Victory Gardens Theater last Christmas. This excellent interpretation features talented actors and musicians, and super imaginative use of props and puppets, which resulted in the show becoming one of the biggest hits in the Theater’s 33 year history. And then there is always Wicked, which is a clever spin off of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and is now in its 3,845th season.*

2008_07_The_BFG.jpgOn the flip side, smaller-scale productions usually serve as a bonus field trip for any children who happen to be reading the book in school, but pssssst! Schools are still teaching the same books! Those of us who have fond memories of books like The Cay or The Giver also get the chance to see these stories brought to life on the stage. Last year, The Chicago Playworks of DePaul University’s Theater School adapted one of our favorite books, Roald Dahl’s The BFG. This year they'll be showing Lois Lowry’s The Giver– another favorite of ours – beginning in April. Adventure Stage of Chicago is currently performing Theodore Taylor’s The Cay having previously offered adaptations of books like Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Does anyone else remember these books? We are glad to see what we consider staples of children’s literature to be chosen for the stage, not only because of their important thematic elements – friendship, dealing with racism, free will – but also because the characters are so fantastic, and the stories so bright.


Image via the TheaterSchool website.

Thanks, Amy!