Throwback Thursday: James and the Giant Peach

While we make preparations to head into Wonka Weekend this Saturday and Sunday in anticipation of our production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (opening February 13th), we’re also taking this moment to pause and reflect back to the last time the words and fantastic characters of Roald Dahl graced our Dress Up Theatre Stage.

This may be the first time our actors have taken our audience into the famous Chocolate Factory, but, in our history as both the Museum and Theatre – and of course as the Museum & Theatre we are today – we love celebrating and performing Roald Dahl. The museum has hosted readings and events for Dahl’s birthday (September 13th – he’d be 98 if he were still alive!), and his characters have come to life on our stage in two recent occasions.

The Children’s Theatre of Maine performed James and the Giant Peach in the fall of 1992, ten years after Richard George first published the stage adaptation of Dahl’s 1961 children’s book.

Cast of James and the Giant Peach, Children's Theatre of Maine, 1992
Cast of James and the Giant Peach, Children’s Theatre of Maine, 1992

And only four years ago (exactly!), we were loading our giant peach into the Dress Up Theatre along with shadow puppet scrims, pieces of clouds, magic beans, and everything else needed for the February 2011 production of James. Catching the eye of some of our community friends, cast members were interviewed on WCSH6’s tv program 207 and in print in the Current, which stated, “For children, the opportunity to act in a play or musical can be transformative.”*

What better stories to help actors take on such a transformative challenge onstage than those of Roald Dahl? His magical, timeless stories are enjoyed by children and adults alike, which is one of the reasons we’re always so happy to revisit them!

Check out some photos from the 2011 production of James and the Giant Peach below! We hope you’ll join us in the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next week!



(As an added throwback, we have three 2011 Peach cast members returning for the Chocolate Factory: Mae Livermore, who played the Glow Worm, returns as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde; Brooks Ewald, who juggled multiple roles including the Captain of the Navy in Peach returns as Veruca’s father Mr. Salt; and Michela Micalizio, who played the Earthworm, is working behind the scenes as a designer in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)


*[Source: Kelly, Michael; Cape, Scarborough, South Portland Actors Among “Peach” Cast; February 16, 2011.]

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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“The Playscape” Opens This Friday at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine

For Immediate Release:

Friday March 14th, 2014
The Playscape Opens to the Public
Exhibit open during normal business hours | Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm
Museum General Admission: $9 per person (under 18 months free)
142 Free Street | Portland, Maine 04101
For more info: 207.828.1234

About The Playscape:
The Playscape is an exhibit designed to promote child-directed, open-ended play and physical activity through engagement with climbing structures and large-scale blocks. Our 900 square-foot exhibit space is being transformed into an abstract indoor landscape compete with lush astroturf and flying kites. The space will be completely immersive and give visitors the feeling of being transported to another world. The exhibit’s two centerpieces are custom CedarWorks climbing structures for children ages 2-12 and Imagination Playground blocks made of biodegradable foam. Both aspects of the exhibit invite children to use their imaginations and their bodies to learn through play. Visitors will be invited to let their imaginations take flight as they climb to the top of a tower, send bucketfuls of balls to friends below, roll in a mini ball pit, traverse bridges, soar down slides, create unique blue structures, and explore The Playscape in their own, creative way.

Sponsor Comments and Contributions:
CedarWorks is pleased to partner with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine to promote indoor play, imagination and discovery. For more than 30 years, CedarWorks has been committed to designing and crafting the safest, most beautiful, and highest quality play systems for children.

“The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is a wonderful space which blends education and fun for families,” said Barrett Brown, CedarWorks company president. “Our indoor play products are a perfect complement to the goals of the Playscape exhibit in that they awaken young imaginations, and get kids moving and exploring through active play,” Brown added.

Tory W. Rogers, MD Director of Let’s Go!, a childhood obesity prevention program in Maine, said “Let’s Go! believes in providing opportunities for Maine children to be more physically active and The Museum is doing just that!” She includes, “Part of Let’s Go!’s commitment to decreasing childhood obesity rates involves encouraging community partners, like The Museum, to get kids moving. We’re happy to support The Playscape and what it stands for.”

About the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine:
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, located in the vibrant heart of Portland, exists to inspire discovery and imagination through exploration and play. The Museum & Theatre serves as an indispensable resource for families and educators, helping to create a broad community devoted to our children’s development and learning. The Museum & Theatre is a significant and valuable community asset, offering a broad and diverse array of educational and cultural enrichment opportunities especially developed for children ages 0-10 and the adults who accompany them.

Using four core areas of focus, including Science, Multicultural, Arts, and Early Childhood Education, the work within the Museum reaches children 6 months to 10 years of age, as well as their families and caregivers. Theatre productions include cast and crew members ages 7 to 16, with their performances being enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Outreach and programming serve students and educators throughout the state, in classes from Pre-K through 5th grade.

Recognition includes winning the Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Pick Award for the Best Museum in Portland (2009) as well as being named one of the 12 Best Children’s Museums in the US by Forbes (2012) and one of four children’s museums in the world to receive the MetLife Promising Practice Award (2012).

The Playscape Exhibit is generously sponsored by:



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Introducing… The Playscape

Playscape graphics package_rack card text

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:


WCSH6    |    Let’s Go!

and UNUM.