Director’s Notes: Shakespeare’s Stories

For many people, Shakespeare can feel like a foreign language. Some are intimidated by the length of the plays; the big words and strange contractions. On the page, Shakespeare can feel daunting, but the key is to speak it aloud. Shakespeare is meant to be played.

I’ve been wanting to produce Shakespeare here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine for a long time. After reading Ken Ludwig’s book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and cutting edge research from the Royal Shakespeare Company relating to Shakespeare and early literacy, I finally felt we were ready. It’s never too late to become familiar with this language and these stories. The Museum & Theatre is the perfect place for the synchronization of young actors approaching the material for the first time, and a young audience discovering the magic of these stories.

With the generous help of our long-time friend and supporter, the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, we have enhanced this production beyond our normal capacity. We hired guest directors, and it has been a pleasure to watch Allison, Marjolaine and Kristen bring us to new depths as actors and designers. We offered Shakespeare acting workshops, hosted “Shakespeariments” with young visitors and had a whole Shakespeare themed summer here at the Museum & Theatre. I am excited to continue this work beyond the summer. I think our work with Shakespeare and early literacy development has only just begun!

Now all that’s missing is you, the audience. Young children are constantly learning new words, and they approach vocabulary fearlessly. A young audience watches before they listen, identifies with the movement on the stage and takes in characters at face value. I eagerly await the young audience members filling the seats of the Dress Up Theater, encountering these magical stories for the very first time!



Raising Readers Visits Down to the Sea

Our friends from Raising Readers came to the opening of our new exhibit, “Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure.” They enjoyed themselves so much, they wanted to write about it! Here’s their story…

Thanks to Maine author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen, Maine families have learned to ski, joined camping sprees, and headed down to the sea with Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee. They’ve also helped Jack build a house with a flying room and a car that can submerge, float, and fly. Oh, and they’ve journeyed on the circus ship with Mr. Paine and have laughed out loud at the circus animals getting, um, adjusted to their new home on an isle in Maine. Remember the ostrich in the outhouse and the monkey swinging in Miss Fannie Feeney’s bloomers?!

With his colorful, lovable, imaginative stories and illustrations, Chris Van Dusen has captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike. His work is so esteemed that in 2015, the Maine Library Association awarded Chris the Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor given by the organization.

Chris and his stories, If I Built a Car and The Circus Ship, have been featured in two Raising Readers anthologies (2006 and 2010) and other titles are also a part of our library of well-loved children’s books. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that the Raising Readers staff are some of his biggest fans. Our team was thrilled (like kids-on-Christmas-morning-thrilled) to be invited to the grand opening of Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure exhibit at the Children’s Museum2`12 and Theater of Maine on June 18th.

Down to the Sea_CharlotteWhen we walked through the door, to the museum’s outside space, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee came alive with a whale fountain in one corner, a sandy “beach” in the playground’s center, pedal cars, a shipwreck to explore, a greenhouse and garden, and Mr. Magee and Dee’s presence throughout. To add to the sheer delight of experiencing a book outside of its pages, kiddos were having a ball interacting with the exhibit and the author himself. They ran around with dog ears on their heads, toy boats in their hands, and were pedaling pint-sized vintage cars as quickly as they could. Even the youngest tikes were pointing at the life-sized painting of Mr. Magee and Dee and screaming their names in delight, a true testament to the power of reading to children and the relationships their young minds build with their favorite characters in their most beloved books.

From an early childhood development stand point, exhibits like many of those found at the Children’s Museum are wonderful for a number of reasons: they promote gross motor play, sensory play with sand and water, and of course, early childhood literacy.

Take it from us, a team of avid children’s book readers, advocates, and lovers of all things Maine, visiting Chris Van Dusen’s Down to the Sea exhibit is worth experiencing, for children and adults alike.

We also encourage you to come check out Raising Readers standing exhibit on the second floor of the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, our cozy and rustic Book Nook. It’s a great place to relax with a good book on a warm lap or cozy chair amongst the hustle and bustle of the museum.


To learn more about ways you can have fun engaging your child in early literacy opportunities, visit:

To see a list of Chris Van Dusen’s books and to get ideas of fun activities that you can do with your kiddos based on his stories, Raising Readers recommends visiting:

Would you like to attend and participate in more activities with an early literacy focus in Maine? Check out the Portland Kids Calendar to see what activities are scheduled near you!

The Best Way to Travel Around the World… Without Leaving Maine!

Travel the globe in only five days during Art Around the World Camp! Celebrate each day as we create art pieces that are part of holidays and festivals from five different countries. Using the museum’s We Are Maine multi-cultural exhibit, unique collections and storybooks we will meet Maine families that celebrate these holidays and see examples of the crafts we will create. During our journey we will learn how art can teach us about other cultures and how they are similar and different from our own.

Sail down to Mexico to celebrate Dia de los Muertos and see how art weaves its way into games and food. This is an exciting and meaningful holiday that celebrates all of the loved ones who are no longer with us. We will decorate sugar skulls and start our weeklong project to make our own piñatas!

Our journey continues in Asia, where we discover a whole day devoted to celebrating children—Joyful Children’s Day! We will make carp kites and origami creatures that remind us of the strong people we are growing up to be.

Next, we travel across the ocean to India where we will find a harvest festival called Sankranthi, which is similar to our Thanksgiving. We will make intricate drawings called rangoli and get the opportunity to make our hands a work of art using henna designs.

One of the biggest celebrations we will learn about is China’s Lunar New Year’s Festival. Like the New Year festival we celebrate in the United States, it is a time to get together with family and prepare for a good year ahead. We will create block printed art and calligraphy like what is made and displayed on China’s Lunar New Year’s Festival. We will also make our own red lanterns, which signify good luck in Chinese culture!

Lastly, we travel to the Middle East to celebrate Norooz, the Persian New Year. Get ready to get a little messy as we paint eggs to welcome in the New Year.
Come join us on this exciting adventure as we discover other cultures and the beautiful and fun art that is shared through their special celebrations.


Reba Short Joins Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artists Roster

The Maine Arts Commission is excited to offer a free online roster which features Maine-based professional artists, with skills and experience teaching learners of various ages, PK-12. The Teaching Artists are available to conduct high-quality learning opportunities for students in school settings and community organizations that offer arts education. We encourage educators and those responsible for arts education to utilize the roster by communicating directly with the Teaching Artists. To view the current roster of PK-12 Teaching Artists please click here.

The latest release of MAC’s Teaching Artist roster has included our very own Theatre Artistic Director, Reba Short. Congratulations, Reba!


Teaching Artists are professional artists who are dedicated to lifelong learning and arts education, have made it an integral part of their professional practice, and who have cultivated skills as educators in concert with their skills as artists.

The Maine Arts Commission selected these artists after conducting an application process with careful review of each applicant. The artists on the roster have demonstrated mastery of an artistic discipline, knowledge and expertise in sequential arts instruction, good communications skills, planning and organizational ability, and an understanding of their target learners.

Reflecting on this announcement, Reba shares,

“I’ve aspired to be a MAC teaching artist for a long time. I think this an opportunity for collaborative work with teachers and schools, taking the grant funded outreach work I do to a new level. I also see this as a calling to be an advocate for arts education in the state. It’s a great honor to be added to this list!”

Become an Inventor at Invention Camp July 20-24

Attention 6 to 8 year old inventors!

Did you know we are surrounded by inventions everywhere we go? During our week-long Invention Camp we will discover the stories behind famous inventions, test out those inventions, and become inventors ourselves!

You might be surprised to learn that inventions are often born through making a treasure out of someone else’s trash. One person might throw away a pie tin, but another might turn it into a flying disk toy! Similarly, one person might throw away slimy goo, but another would see this goo as a timeless child’s game. Get ready to play with a pie tin to discover how the Frisbee was invented and recreate an experiment gone awry to make your own Silly Putty. Exciting inventions like these can be made out of everyday objects around us and we will use these and other recycled objects to make our own inventions!

Inventions can also happen because of accidents or mistakes. At the Museum & Theatre, our mixing bowls are ready with flour, sugar and butter to relive the one of the greatest “oops!” inventions of all time: the chocolate chip cookie! Instead of getting upset that cookies or other creations do not turn out the way we were expecting, we will learn how to look upon unexpected events as creative inventions that could quite possibly be better than anything before!

All those who love to create will find new avenues to use their imaginative talents as we look into a new topic of invention every day. Create your own flavored ice recipe as we explore inventions in the kitchen; make innovative improvements on toys; explore the scientific principles of thermal energy and action and reaction as we venture into the world of aviation to create airplanes, hot air balloons, and rockets; trace inventions throughout art history from 3D drawing via our very own Camera Obscura to the very first animated films… and last but not least, no invention camp would be complete without robots! We’ll finish up camp by making our own bristlebots to take home.

Invention Camp runs from Monday, July 20th through Friday, July 24th, 9am-12pm. Ages 6-8. Join us during this exciting week as we turn trash into treasure, accidents into triumphs, and discover and celebrate creativity, originality, and inventions!