Meet Charlie Brown, a self-proclaimed loser who’s never received a Valentine, never won a Little League Game, and never flown a kite. Today is a typical day in his life; from getting up in the morning and being late for school, to seeing the cute little red haired girl at lunch but being too terrified to talk to her, and ending the day with finding happiness in the comfort of his friends.
Speaking of friends, this Peanuts Gang is just as complex as our hero! Lucy is unapologetically honest and offers advice for a price. Blanket-toting Linus is savvy and wise. Sally hops from one surprising realization to the next as if she’s jumping rope. Schroeder strives to cultivate the drive and passion of the great composers he admires. Snoopy has the power to transform worlds with his imagination. Together they’ve inspired generations of children from the original ink drawing by Charles Schultz published for the first time in 1955.
With two casts, twenty-two actors, eight songs, three theatre educators and twelve kazoos, we have thrown ourselves completely into this play since the beginning of January. Rehearsals have consisted of singing, dancing, soul searching and team building. I’m always inspired by our actor’s ability to dive into material whether it’s a light-hearted fairy-tale or a Roald Dahl comedy. In this play I was especially impressed by the shared empathy and communal knowledge of the themes. Every single one of us could relate to the ups and downs Charlie Brown experiences throughout the day, it’s what makes us human.
While Charlie Brown and his gang talk about rejection, depression and the question their existence, they also jump rope, fly kites and play baseball. In rehearsal I was constantly reminded there’s no such thing as adult problems or kid problems. We all look at the world in unique ways, we’re all deep thinkers, and we all offer a unique perspective. These songs and vignettes, in all their simplicity, remind us of the resilience inside each of us, no matter how old we are.
“Oh, is my tongue blue?” Here’s what our Theatre Artistic Director and director of our production of The Witches has to say about the play… Want to see more? Get your tickets to The Witcheshere and for our own special interactive adaptation of the story for preschool ages, How to Spot a Witch,here!
From the Artistic Director, Reba Short:
Why would a theatre company produce The Witches anyway? The themes are dark, the images are gruesome; for goodness’ sake, there’s a chorus of witches talking about crunching children’s bones! The Grandmother in the story seems alright, but she’s smoking black cigars! How could this possibly be a children’s play? Has the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine lost all its good sense?!
As Theatre Artistic Director, I say not in the least! We are producing the work of Roald Dahl, hailed as one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children’s Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990. The themes in Dahl’s books are so dark, they’re funny. The witches are so terrible, they’re loveable. The plots are so preposterous, they can’t be serious, and they aren’t, at all. That’s Dahl’s magic as a storyteller. He pushes the boundaries of his make-believe world to its furthest corners, and then keeps pushing. His imagination goes to dark and wild places, and he invites the young reader with him and counts on them to know what is fantasy. Today we are asking the same of you, our audience. Join us for this wild and awful annual convention of witches and know that it’s just pretend.
My favorite part of Roald Dahl’s books are his heroes. Always unlikely, they may seem weak at first. They are usually children who use courage and cleverness to become strong. In our play, it’s a small-boy-turned-mouse that receives the call to adventure. (It would be impossible to find a smaller hero!) If the witchy plot wasn’t so awful, it wouldn’t be necessary for the boy-mouse to save the children at all. This is a story that begs the audience not to take it too seriously, but to find inspiration in the acts of courage and magical ways that the even small heroes can save the world.
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!
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!”
In preparation for our summer production Shakespeare’s Stories, we are offering ten free Shakespeare workshops for all interested young actors between the ages of eight to seventeen. This is an opportunity to learn about and experiment with Shakespeare outside a traditional rehearsal process.
Young actors will become familiar with the language of Shakespeare, as well as some of his most magical stories: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, and Macbeth. Only actors that have attended five out of ten Shakespeare Workshops at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine are eligible to be cast in our summer show.
Funding for these free workshops provided by the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust. FMI email email@example.com.
“But wait, my child’s too young for Shakespeare!” At the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, we say “Nay!”
Young children are not intimidated by Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company claims Shakespeare should be taught early, four and five year olds are fearless and accustomed to trying out new language and learning new words. In fact, when children encounter Shakespeare at an early age, most of them become highly engaged in the rich and playful language, the stories, and the complex characters.
In a creative and playful setting, Shakespeare’s text can be used to engage and ignite young children with creative word play and vocabulary building. The stories themselves tap into the imagination in imaginative and often archetypal ways. 85% of brain development occurs by age three. A child’s level of language and early literacy skill development in the first five years of life are indicative of future success in school and the workforce.
By exposing young children to Shakespearean text early, we hope to encourage a love of literacy and a fearless drive towards language comprehension.
As many of you know, we just wrapped a fantastic production of “Robin Hood” here at the Museum & Theatre. It was a truly hysterical play written specifically for our Theatre by Brett Askari, and we enjoyed a great run of capacity audiences over the past week and a half.
One standout of this production is our friend Brooks, one of the young actors on stage in “Robin Hood.” Brooks may be a familar name and face to those who come to our Theatre regularly, as Brooks has been in no less than 19 SHOWS during his 9 year run with us here. WOW!
We hope that this isn’t Brooks’ last show with us, as talent like his is a gift to everyone!
Please congratulate Brooks on a his work on “Robin Hood,” and so many more over the years. Thank you, Brooks, for being such a great part of what we do here.
What’s Teensy Weensy Acting Class? A literacy and creative development program for ages 3-5. Over a period of six weeks, young actors dive into a story, processing it with imagination, puppetry, music and dance. At the end of the last class, young actors put on a show for their families. This is an excellent opportunity for preschool-age children to give acting a try, become storytellers and work as a group.
Dragons Love Tacos and Secret Pizza Parties: Wednesdays, March 4, 11, 18 and 25 and April 1 and 8.
Have you ever wondered if animals have a favorite food? In this Teensy Weensy class we will be acting out two of the silliest children’s books on the New York Times best sellers list, Dragons Love Tacos and Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Prepare to sneak around like a pizza loving raccoon or crunch on some tacos like a fire-breathing dragon! Caregivers, family and friends are invited to an 11am show on April 8.
$90/member, $120/visitor. To register call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk.
Welcome to our cautionary tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! While cautionary tales are a dime a dozen in children’s literature and children’s theatre, a cautionary tale by Roald Dahl is different. Bad children who chew too much gum turn into blueberries. Crocodiles that try to eat children get tossed into the sun. Dahl plays with imaginative and gruesome punishments but only to those who are greedy and ultimately deserve the wild terribleness that’s coming their way.
When I read a Roald Dahl story out loud to children, I give the cautionary tale a cautious disclaimer. “This is Roald Dahl. If you aren’t familiar with this children’s author you may find the content of this story inappropriate…” And then I start reading, and I resist the urge to sub out words or change ending because while adults may find Dahl horrifying, children find Dahl hilarious.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been giving the note to actors: “Be more awful! Don’t make these characters likeable!” As an audience, we have to believe that Augustus, Violet, Veruca and Mike deserve their punishment. If our actors portray sweetness, the story will come off all wrong. Believe it or not, they seem to enjoy their awful characters. While it’s fun to act terrible sometimes, the experience of working on this play has been anything but awful. Behind the scenes we have a group of kids that are kind to each other and work as an amazing team. In our large cast, I see older actors helping younger actors, younger actors inspiring older actors, and a strong sense of community among cast mates. Putting on a play like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory requires an all for one, one for all mentality that the entire group has embraced from the very beginning. There’s not a rotten nut in this whole bunch!
I’m excited about our upcoming shows in our season: In April we will produce Robin Hood, and we have an exciting opportunity to work with a local playwright and offer theatre workshops to afterschool centers in the Portland area. In the summer, we begin Shakespeare’s Stories, a chance to introduce young children to the magic of Shakespeare by hearing the stories from our young actors. We hope to see you and your family in the Dress Up Theatre again soon!
Enjoy the Show! Reba Short, Theatre Artistic Director