Introducing… The Playscape

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Our newest exhibit, The Playscape, is under construction in conjunction with our friends from CedarWorks and is being readied for its grand debut. The Playscape will officially be open to the public Friday, March 14th during normal Museum hours, 10am-5pm.

The Playscape features two indoor climbing structures with lots of room for big movement and giant, open-ended, blue blocks that can become anything you want them to be. With one climbing structure specifically designed for toddlers and another, taller climbing structure for the big kid in us all, as well as the ability to make your own structure from very unique blocks, families will find something for all ages in The Playscape. Let your imagination take flight as you climb to the top of a tower, send bucketfuls of balls to your friends below, roll in a mini ball pit, traverse bridges, soar down slides, create unique blue structures, and explore The Playscape in your own, creative way.

Many thanks to our sponsors:

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WCSH6    |    Let’s Go!

and UNUM.

Spotlight on: New Grant Funding

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine Development Associate Alicia Stokes Gaudet is thrilled to tell everyone about two new programs that we have received grant funding for
and are already underway.

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Here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, we are fortunate to receive the support of many local and national foundations and corporations. One of my responsibilities in the development department is to research prospective funders and coordinate our funding requests. Contributed support helps us to provide new educational opportunities to a much larger Museum & Theatre population, particularly at-risk children and families in our community who may not ordinarily have the opportunity to visit us here.

Recently our educator Jamie started a new interdisciplinary educational program for homeless parents and their preschool-age children, called Learning through Play, funded by the MainStreet Foundation and Walmart. After visiting the Salvation Army during parenting programs at their Playspace, Jamie invited several families to participate in weekly morning programs at the Museum & Theatre. During these programs, Jamie has provided lessons in literacy and nutrition and has helped to build bonds between the parent and child.

Just last month we received a generous grant from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation for Start-Up Circus, which will be coming soon to the Museum & Theatre. Our educator Roseanne, who has training in circus arts, will work with experienced performers from the Circus Conservatory of America and high school students who have studied the circus arts to lead weekly workshops with low-income children to develop a community performance that showcases their new talents.

Also, be on the lookout for ongoing circus programs with Roseanne this summer and fall!

Please join us in thanking all of our corporate sponsors and foundation supporters, who truly make our work possible!

Early Closing Today, Tues. Feb. 18th at 3:30pm Due to Impending Storm

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will be closing at 3:30pm Today, Tuesday, February 18th.

There will be no events, Theatre rehearsal, or Museum admission after 3:30pm due to the inclement winter weather and for the safety of our staff and visitors.

We plan to re-open tomorrow, Wednesday February 19th, weather permitting.

Intern Anna ‘s Printmaking Project

anna printing 2

Hi I’m Anna! Between receiving my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from William Paterson University and committing to a Master of Fine Arts program, I applied for an Art Education internship at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Since September I’ve been learning and designing art programs for visitors at the Museum & Theatre.

Having a background in Printmaking, I naturally gravitated towards a print-based project when it came time to hatch a plan for a program series. Having only a little experience working with very young children there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to implementing some of my big ideas and advanced printmaking techniques. With time, the aid of wonderful experts at the Museum, and trail and error, my project went through numerous incarnations and ended up being (much to my delight) a colorful, fun and successful program!

The idea was to have visitors print their own scenes centered around the topic of how animals in Maine adapt and survive the winter. I made a series of stamps that acted as a launch-pad for their pictures.

It was amazing how quickly the kids picked up on the printing process, and fascinating to watch different kids use the stamps differently, find elements in them that I never intended, and augment their pictures with absolutely unique drawings.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve taken away from the experience is flexibility, trial and error, learning to expect the unexpected, and how much there is to learn through the reciprocal process of teaching.

Currently in progress is a series of pieces showing animals in their habitats during the different seasons, which will eventually hang in the Museum. For these pieces I’m using the newly created stamp set, as well as incorporating painting and drawing with the prints – an idea the kids gave me! Keep your eyes out for the final pieces later this month.

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Bon Voyage, Istar!

Eva and Matilda and IstarJoin us this Sunday, February 23rd to celebrate and say farewell to our beloved humpback whale, Istar. It won’t be a forever farewell, don’t worry! She’s swimming on to meet new friends, but will be making appearances this summer (outside) and will also continue to swim around the state visiting students at their schools.

We love Istar so much! We love her whiskers and her tail and even her funny teeth. And from 2-5pm on the 23rd, we’ll be sharing our favorite things about her. Join us to sing a goodbye song in whale language, to feast on her favorite snacks, and to make yourself a beautiful whale spout hat. And of course, go inside Istar to learn about her eyes, her nose, her mouth, and her tail.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Some of her friends shared their thoughts, and answered “What’s your favorite thing about Istar?”

“Her tail, because it was big and really long!”
Taylor, age 10
Lewiston, Maine

“Her whiskers! I didn’tTaylor and Istar
know whales had hair.”
Haiden, age 7
Westbrook, Maine

“My favorite part was everything. I got to see her eye!”
Ava, age 6
Freeport, Maine

“I thought it was really fun!”
Matilda, age 6
Topsham, Maine

Introducing Todd Richard, Our New Marketing Coordinator

todd_richard_risephotographyHello, my name is Todd, and I am the new kid around here.

I’ve recently started as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, and I am thrilled to be here.

I love Portland, Maine and moved here as an adult 14 years ago, living here for quite a bit of my childhood. Alas, even though my father, brother, and son are natives, I am not.  I had moved up here looking for a vacation after the school I was teaching at went on summer break, thinking that if my students were to get a break, I should as well. If anyone should see that vacation anywhere around here, please let me know.

I’ve been active in performing arts, entertainment, and non-profit work for over 20 years, and have had the pleasure of working with and for many of Southern Maine’s greatest organizations and happenings. I’ve also enjoyed my work as a musician, and some of you may have been on a dance floor when I was DJing, or seen me on stage with my good friends the Don Campbell Band.

I first came to the Museum several years ago, when my niece and nephew were younger. “Uncle Todd” always got to do fun things with the kids, but I’ll admit, I was nervous. Nervous! Going to the Children’s Museum with my favorite kids in the world made me nervous. I became self-conscious, and very aware I was under-dressed, as the niece and nephew were decked out in full-on Star Wars regalia. I didn’t know my way around, and didn’t know what went on at the Children’s Museum. Would I be made to play games or do things I didn’t know how to do?

I was taking myself too seriously to even smile when the young woman at the front desk helped us. Upon entering the exhibits and starting to see how all the children became instantly at peace convicted me. Being a grownup and being taught humility by an exuberant pack of smiling and playing children was a huge moment in my life.

Children have not been taught such silly, circumstantial, and constricting ideas like the “right” way to look, or play, or enjoy. Adults cling to these factors long after they were ever introduced. Once I put down my camera, I was able to really enjoy the experience that Amelia and Ben were already having.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has truly been conceived and designed to create a solid and safe place for families to have fun and educational experiences together. There are so many organized programs going on here daily and weekly, but I think you’ll find some of the most special moments come when you allow yourself to cease your planning and parenting for a moment, and let your child lead you in the play. You’ll find that even if you’re under-dressed without your lightsaber, your children will help you have fun, regardless.

I’m looking forward to connecting with all of you. Please feel free to email me, or stay in touch via our Facebook or Twitter.

Actor-Educator Michela: Teaching and Learning with Theatre and Puppets

Guest Blogger and Veteran Actor Michela Micalizio

GUEST BLOG POSTER: MICHELA

You may recognize Michela as an actress who frequented the Dress Up Theatre stage not too long ago, playing roles like Blitzen in Santa’s Reindeer Revue, the Empress in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and Mama in Wiley and the Hairy Man. During the day, Michela is an 11th grader at Falmouth High School. When she grows up, she’d like to be a theatre educator, so when she had the opportunity to job shadow for her school, she came the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! Here are her observations and thoughts on the experience.

DAY 1

Hello! My name is Michela Micalizio. I am a 17 year old junior at Falmouth High School and I was permitted to job shadow here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine with the wonderful Reba Short, who might have the best job ever. She is the head honcho of the theatre, directing the shows and theatre programs in the museum. When I arrived, I sat down with Reba and three little girls to help with the Teensy Weensy acting class for ages 3-5. I knew I was going to have a good day when I saw three tiny girls eagerly and joyfully huddled around a window frame being held by Reba who was kneeling on the floor and operating a chicken puppet.

The girls’ mission was to collect food that was falling from the sky and feed it to the chicken. I was handed the chicken and accepted the mantle that comes with it. The girls would talk to the chicken like it was real; they were bubbly and enthusiastic, imaginative and creative, and silly and fun. They all varied in confidence levels, one girl was tentative and shy while another was a wild child, outgoing and loud. Yet it was clear to me that all of them felt safe enough in that theater to express their opinions and dance like goons. The chicken was a more approachable classmate, always receiving cuddles, being asked to dance, and joining in the activities on the girls’ requests.

I find that with puppets, a whole different door is opened in terms of communicating with kids. They may not actually believe it to be living, but it is something that is fascinating and relatable. Puppets are wonderful to use with children. But soon it was time to say goodbye, and Reba and I went on a floor check with marionettes: two fluffy “birddogs”. The puppets are sometimes scary to younger ones, so we had to be careful.

We only had one incident where an older brother asked to use the puppet and proceeded to chase and corner his baby brother who was reduced to tears. We had to be careful about which kids we could hand the marionettes to. But the next child we handed it to, not only did she respect the puppet and not scare anyone, but she named it, she spoke to it, and she walked with it like a friend. Mr. Red and Mr. Blue, the birddogs, went to the supermarket and another girl bought them lunch: raisins with maple syrup (the favorite food of birddogs) and bread (a LOT of bread). The marionettes Misters Red and Blue were a success.

When Reba made an announcement for a star show and only one kid and her dad showed up, she put on a show just for them. The kid never said a word, and was still as attentive and enchanted as anyone else, for she sat still and listened to the stories behind the Chinese constellations. Well, I am very excited about the next two days I will be here, see you tomorrow!

Michela as Mama in "Wiley and the Hairy Man," 2012

Michela as Mama in “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” 2012

DAY 2

Hey there! Michela Micalizio here again at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. The second day of my job shadow began with a design meeting, planning out the set and lighting for Rumpelstiltskin. This is going to be a wicked cool show, let me just say. During the planning, kids would wander in and they would not be shooed away by us, we were in the children’s country, they have domain in their museum. Kids are free to explore anywhere and if we intrude, we are in the way of their leaping and spinning. When Reba and I performed her puppet show “What Does the Fox Say?” kids were laughing, interacting, and enjoying themselves. But as soon as we were done, we had to quickly get out of there because the kids were so eager to put on their own puppet show. It is bewildering and encouraging to see all these kids get so excited about the arts, theater and creating things for themselves. Tonight I get to sit in for a rehearsal of Rumpelstiltskin. That’ll be so fun! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Take care!

DAY 3

Michela Micalizio reporting from the last day of my job shadow! Here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, the “and theatre” part of it all is where it’s at. Rehearsal for Rumpelstiltskin last night was amazing! There are some extremely talented kids in this show. It will be performing Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays February 14-23rd, as well as Wednesday and Thursday February 19th and 20th. I cannot disclose anything about the play, because that ruins the fun, but I will say to get very excited, this will be a show you shouldn’t miss.

Theatre is a place for timid children to find their voice; it is a safe haven for the downtrodden and a party for the meek. It really is magical. This morning I got to do a puppet floor check by myself! It was much less eventful than the first, however, and I returned upstairs. Reba then informed me that I was to help her with a performance of her show “The True Story of the Toy Fairy.” All I can say is wow! It was an interactive, imaginative and plain wonderful play where the kids got feathers to fly, magic glitter, and a tea party with the toy fairy! Today I saw a lot more of parents playing and joining in on the creation then I have the past two days.

Reba asked me then to help her prototype an exhibit that will be debuting in the museum in the near future. The Imagination Playground is truly a sight to see, with massive blue blocks to build any old thing you want! Reba had the idea to create an activity for kids where they help a monster rebuild his house. I was to play the monster today, and Reba wanted to watch and create a comprehensive guide for volunteers to do this in the future. Prototyping is like rehearsals for the museum staff, she says. And that went very, very well! I operated a sweet blue monster puppet named Sully, and a wonderfully forward 4-year-old girl marched right up and built him a house. Reba says in the past, she’s noticed that boys tend to build the structure of the house, one with walls and a ceiling, while girls would furnish it. This was true for this girl, too, as she proceeded to make a mailbox, a bed, a slide, and many lamps! This will be a wonderful exhibit, children and parents both getting lost in the possibilities of these blue blocks. This was an informational and downright fun job shadow, and I hope to volunteer in the future! Michela Micalizio, signing off.