That’s a Wrap on “The Road to Hope.”

the road to hope curtain call

Yesterday, our production of “The Road to Hope: An Elephant’s Story” wrapped up with a sold-out show. After more than a dozen performances, Theatre Director Reba Short and her troupe of student actors and stage staff took a well-deserved bow.

I had the pleasure of seeing the performance myself just this past Friday, and I can’t say enough about how truly impressive and talented this cast was. A special round of applause must go to Reba, who penned this script herself. I was privileged to take part in a table read of the script as it was still being edited and developed. What a cool process to bear witness to!


I know from my own craft that writing is part additive (like painting) and subtractive (like sculpture.) The endeavor of not only writing a story, but then formatting it for the stage, is a monumental effort. Reba took a pair of characters (retired circus elephants, nonetheless) and not only gave dramatic life to their true stories, but also told a parallel story of a young girl and her struggles. Through the hour-long play, she thoughtfully wove their tales together to achieve an engaging play that entertained while teaching.


Congrats to Reba and all of our cast and crew. Fantastic work!

Crystal, Gem, and Fossil Fun

Last week a group of 6 to 8 year old eager-eyed rock sleuths came together for the Children’s Museum & Theatre’s first ever Crystal, Gem and Fossil camp. Having personally collected rocks (amateurly) for 25 years (my first were pebbles from my Massachusetts backyard!) I was thrilled to lead a week of activities all about the workings underground, prehistoric life and of course, shiny, luminous, precious mineralogical treasures. Here’s the week as a photo review.

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Where Science Meets Art Camp

August 11-15

We made a list of reasons why rocks are important and investigated objects that contain rocks and minerals (did you know a typical computer contains at least 65 different minerals?)


We looked really closely at what sand and sediment actually is….and then we pretended to be sand granules at the bottom of a river bed.



Eventually our sand granules buddied-up and started to stick together, turning into a sedimentary (layered, sandwich-like) rock. Once we were pushed a bit deeper into the earth we hit the metamorphic stage, and eventually deeper and we because igneous – we were SO hot that we turned into liquid, molten rock. When we couldn’t take the heat anymore…we had to pop out of the earth through a volcano! (Here we are “3…2…1…rupture!”)


We looked at basalt and other types of volcanic rock (…and sometimes smelled them too).



And of course, what would a science camp be without some backing soda and vinegar volcanoes?!


To re-cap the different stages of the rock cycle, we made some rock treats, first starting with sediment (cheerios, rice crispies, chocolate chips….) we added some melted marshmallow during the Igneous stage and baked it all to be molten-chocolate-gooeyness.


We used rock salt, Epsom salt and regular table salt (aka sodium chloride or halite) and talked about how wild it is that we eat minerals! And minerals are actually IN US! We counted the different faces of faceted gems and the vertices and created our own connect-the-dots gem painting. The salt we sprinkled on top absorbed some of the paint and made some pretty cool designs.





We wrote and drew.




We looked at crystals through a microscope.


We cracked open our own geodes.


We looked very closely and then sifted and cleaned them up, like real mineralogists.





And had free play…once we even met the Portland fire fighters!



Per their request we took a few ‘selfies’

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And we can’t wait to do it again! Thanks for a great week.


Director’s Notes from “The Road to Hope: An Elephant’s Story”

rosie promo1

Last August I took a mini road trip with my best friend to climb Mount Katahdin and meet some retired circus elephants. We piled in the car and headed north on Route One. Inside the elephant sanctuary, we met two massive and beautiful creatures who were rocking to their own rhythm. A friendly voice then said: “Did you know that elephants love reggae?” We turned and met Dr. Jim, opening his presentation for us visitors with a joke and a smile.

As I watched Rosie and Opal swaying that day, they reminded me of every kid I’ve ever met: massive, playful, personal and loving. (Yes, I did just call kids massive — most are in our small theatre!) Rosie’s story of how she was pushed by Isla reminded me of the countless stories I’ve heard our actors share about bullies in their schools. Like elephants, kids are herd animals. They can be kind and loving, but also jealous, territorial and possessive.

Bullying is an epidemic in our society. Despite the best efforts of educators and psychologists, classroom bullying is not going anywhere. Social media seems to have intensified the phenomenon.

In 2011 I had the privilege to work with leading anti-bullying expert Stan Davis on a touring theatrical piece called “Youth Voices Onstage”. We traveled to classrooms with a troupe of young actors (Aiden Davenport was one of the original members of this cast!), conducting story circles and using playback theatre to restage the events that children shared with us. That piece posited that there’s an opportunity for new kindness and friendship behind every act of cruelty – a sentiment that I agree with wholeheartedly. Such opportunities can arrive in the guise of a considerate classmate, a caring adult, or even  — in Rosie’s case — a veterinarian who kept a thirty-year promise.

Open-Ended Programming in our All-Weather Playscape.

After a successful opening in March 2014, The Playscape remains a daily favorite destination among visitors of varying ages. Its towering indoor playground structures and blue blocks of many shapes and sizes provide for multiple open-ended play scenarios as well as guided programs. Open-ended play is exactly as it sounds: the concept is open; there are no rules. For children at all stages of development, the opportunity to make their own rules in play scenarios essential to honing certain skills. It allows for learning through trial and error, reasoning, teamwork and engineering. While structured toys like puzzles have only one outcome, open-ended toys such as the blue blocks in The Playscape can become anything. The only limit is the imagination.

Structures and large blue blocks provide the foundation for endless opportunities.
Structures and large blue blocks provide the foundation for endless opportunities.

Thanks to the open concept of The Playscape, our educators and volunteers can lead daily activities that challenge our young visitors to make bold choices, work and imagine together to reach a goal that changes with every iteration of the program. Programs like the Quicksand Challenge or Giant Building Challenge first introduced the concepts of working together to engineer a solution for a problem – in these cases, to help a group of animals cross quicksand or overcome another obstacle. One of our weekly Tiny Tots programs this spring presented The Playscape to our youngest visitors with Amazing Mazes, introducing 18-36-month-olds to the mazelike structures the exhibit provides.

Building challenges continue in our Young Engineers programming: children have the opportunity to create a car, bridge (that you can really walk across!) or even a creature out of the blue blocks based on prompts and suggestions from our educators. Children also enjoy creating buildings out of the blocks, especially when they get to help out a puppet friend in need in the program Monster Needs a Home.

A visitor helps Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short's puppet friend find a bed in The Playscape.
A visitor helps Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short’s puppet friend find a bed in The Playscape.

The giant wooden structures in The Playscape can also become perfect puppet stages or any kind of building or vessel a child may need in a game. The open space has also provided a perfect place to play Circus Games: two of our youth staff educators have been teaching basic circus skills like balancing and juggling to visitors of all ages during weekly July programs. Children and adults alike will try to balance clubs (or blue blocks!) and juggle circus balls… or, even better, the colorful ones from the ball pit!

The wonderful thing about The Playscape is that it can be whatever the visitor wants it to be. With great thanks to The Playscape’s donors and sponsors, Unum; Let’s Go!; WCSH6 and CedarWorks, this unique and truly magical exhibit has established itself as a place for children of all ages to make new discoveries, play, create and learn.

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Golden Tickets Make Our Theatre Season Extra Sweet

There’s a secret in our new chocolate bars…!

As we launch into our new theatre season with our very own original production of The Road to Hope: An Elephant’s Story (running July 16th through 27th), we are also pleased to announce an exciting opportunity wrapped within our brand new chocolate bars.

Our theatre season includes many exciting and well-known tales, including our February 2015 production of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. So naturally, we decided to celebrate this theatre season by partnering with our friends at Wilbur’s Chocolate to create our very own delicious treat! This locally-crafted milk chocolate bar is ready to satisfy a sweet tooth, and is now on sale here at the Museum & Theatre Store in our lobby.

Everyone knows that you can’t even think the words “Chocolate Factory” without immediately thinking “Golden Ticket.” So, of course, we had to make it a game! (Ask at the front desk about what the awesome prize is for a winning ticket!) There are only a few Golden Tickets hidden inside the wrappers, and supply is limited, so take a chance on chocolate next time you come to visit us. You could be rewarded with a Golden Ticket!

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Cooking Healthy: Quick Pickles

Hi, everyone! Did you catch our Cooking Healthy workshop this morning? Even if you missed it, we’re excited to share today’s recipe with you. Make delicious, nutritious goodies at home, any time!

Today’s recipe:

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles!

Cooking Healthy is a monthly cooking program sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental and is free with admission. Hope to see you next month!

How Two Elephants Are Bringing Hope To Elephants Worldwide

Buzzfeed has published a wonderful article about Hope Elephants and the two Asian elephants who live there, Rosie and Opal. These girls are now the elephant stars of our summer show The Road to Hope: An Elephant’s Story, opening July 16th and running until July 27th. Check it out to read all about Rosie, Opal and Dr. Jim Laurita, then see their story performed live at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine!

The Buzz About Our New Bees

Please check out this cool gallery of images taken yesterday by our Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, as our brand new beehive was being installed. The bees were moved to their new temporary home in the Ranger Station on our second floor.

Some facts about the bees and our hive:

  • Davida Sky is our master beekeeper, with over 26 years of beekeeping experience. She will be checking in on the bees monthly to monitor them to make sure they are healthy and having a good time.
  • The queen is marked with a bright green dot on her back. Each year the new queens are marked with a different color, so in addition to being a tool for finding the queen, it is a way for beekeepers to track a queen’s age.
  • The new hive is an 8 frames hive from Bonterra Bees in Bar Harbor, Maine, almost 3 times bigger than our last one. This extra space gives the bees space to store enough honey to survive through the winter.