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Stages, Sights & Sounds Blog

Animating with Lego Bricks (a.k.a. Brickfilming)
(Photo by Ben Gonzales) This past Saturday, I led two Lego animation workshops as part of Stages, Sights & Sounds 2014. We had more than 30 kids come to the Chicago Cultural Center to try their hands at making stop-motion animations using Lego bricks (a.k.a. brickfilms). You can watch the results of their hard work embedded below or collected as a YouTube playlist. (Photo by Ben Gonzales) All the animations at these workshops were made using Lego Movie Maker, a free app developed by... Continue Reading >>
Fairy Tales
Fairy Tales is back by popular demand! Nori Sawa delivers fresh takes on fairy tale classics: What really happened between Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf? Did the Three Little Pigs ever rebuild? A master physical comedian as well as a spellbinding puppeteer, Sawa presents unique, sometimes twisted versions of traditional tales as well as enchanting stories of his own based on elements of the natural world. "Eerily beautiful, intriguing, and extraordinarily well-performed . .... Continue Reading >>
Under the Sea . . .
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer is set in a bleak future; the seas have risen, billions have died, and humans live on farms atop skyscrapers and mountains. Enter the unassuming and reluctant explorer, Alvin Sputnik! Photo by Michelle Robin Anderson In the wake of losing his wife, Alvin lives up to his name* by volunteering for a perilous quest to the depths of the sea. What follows is a charming journey in which the audience accompanies Alvin on his adventure to save... Continue Reading >>
Fiercely Imaginative Children’s Literature
You might not recognize the names Jon Scieszka and Timothy Basil Ering, but there’s a good chance you’re familiar with their award-winning children's books. Jon Scieszka is perhaps best known for his book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales—a sidesplitting, self-aware spoof that introduced a generation to postmodern storytelling. His latest book, Battle Bunny, is similarly tongue-in-cheek and off-the-wall. It is presented as a banal, predictable... Continue Reading >>
It's a hat . . . It's a snail . . . It's Animales!
Animales is a dynamic, wordless show that captivates children. To the delight of young audience members, master puppeteer Pablo Vergne playfully guides everyday objects into surprising shapes on stage. Even adults in the audience will experience child-like wonder as objects such as hats and foam tubes charmingly transform into animals, letters, and more. Photo by Eva Soriano No need to worry if younger children cannot stay quiet for the duration of the show. Their shouts of... Continue Reading >>
Once upon a crescent moon . . . Kaguya: The Bamboo Princess
Acclaimed puppeteer Nori Sawa returns to Stages, Sights & Sounds with the US premiere of his new show Kaguya: The Bamboo Princess, his distinctive take on a tenth-century Japanese folktale. But what is the origin of this beautiful bamboo princess? And what makes her legend unique in the history of literature? Photo by Shozo Kajiwara Kaguya is a beautiful girl found as an infant in a glimmering stalk of bamboo by the childless bamboo-cutter, Taketori no Okina. He adopts Kaguya into his... Continue Reading >>
Fluff is a Quirky Celebration of Lost Toys
Photo by Sean Young The stage is covered in toys: dozens of teddy bears, toy cars, and ragdolls are carefully perched atop colorful shelves. Each one is unique and seems to have a story to tell. Even before Fluff begins, the audience wonders about these toys. Where did they come from? To whom do they belong? Photo by Sean Young Enter the Ginghams: a traveling trio of plaid-patterned siblings whose mission in life is to rescue lost or forgotten toys and give them a home and a new lease on life... Continue Reading >>
Welcome to Stages, Sights & Sounds 2014
Stages, Sights & Sounds is Chicago’s only international children’s theater festival. This year we celebrate our 15th year of presenting fresh, original performances from around the world with 48 programs from May 6–24 at three Chicago venues.  Stages, Sights & Sounds brims with possibilities, offering lively theatrical and hands-on experiences for every age. You can see performers from faraway countries and also discover Chicago gems. You can find inspiration in... Continue Reading >>
I am . . .
I am ambitious and intelligent . . . I see superheroes flying to the rescue . . . I worry if I'm good enough for this world . . . On Wednesday, May 8 at 5 pm in the afternoon, I had the privilege of accompanying Paige Hernandez to the Better Boys Foundation in North Lawndale for a performance workshop. Paige was in the middle of her run of performances of Paige in Full at the Museum of Contemporary Art, one of six programs CHF presented this year... Continue Reading >>
In Full: A Brief History of Hip-hop
At my leftist, Episcopal summer camp in rural Northern California, a camp counselor rapped Ludacris at the talent show. West Sonoma County is at once a sanctuary of the failed flower child, a redneck retreat, and an outdoor-educator oasis. That summer, offset in stark contrast to the familiar cadence of folk and country—the acoustic strum and twangy pick of campfire gone right—the lyrics “I’ve got pros [sic] in every area code” reverberated through the redwood forest, ringing out over the... Continue Reading >>
Origins of a Sleeping Beauty
By Kim Peter Kovac, Producing Director for Theater for Young Audiences at the John F. Cennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The origin story of the co-commissioning of Sleeping Beauty Dreams goes back to 2005, when playwright Amaranta Leyva came to the Kennedy Center as part of a group of Mexican arts professionals doing some training with Michael Kaiser and the DeVos Institute for Arts Management.  We had an instant rapport, since we both were passionately dedicated to performances for... Continue Reading >>
Dark Woods and Breadcrumbs
Neil Gaiman said, “We encounter fairytales as kids, in retellings or panto. We breathe them. We know how they go.”   This year’s Stages, Sights & Sounds festival loosely follows the broad and encompassing theme of the fairy tale. Grounded in the oral tradition, fairy tales have been endlessly transformed, reinvented, and transcribed on pages and stages, and embedded in our cultural subconscious. With the strange magic of recognition, they invoke the universal. Dark woods, breadcrumbs, a... Continue Reading >>
It's All About Access
By Wayne Stiles, Director of Program Development and Evaluation at the Better Boys Foundation Access. That word has been a part of Better Boys Foundation since a boxing gym was converted into a community center over 50 years ago on Chicago's West Side. Whether it was through the generosity of borsch belt comedians, NFL linebackers, or heavyweight champions of the world, our founder Joe Kellman found a way to give the students of North Lawndale access to a brighter future. Many things have... Continue Reading >>
Murder on the Midwest Express
By Marc Frost, Artistic Director of Theater Un-speak-able Waiting backstage at last year’s Stages, Sights & Sounds Festival, I felt like the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. The emcee announced our piece, Superman 2050, the lights went out and busloads of school kids began cheering wildly. The screams reached a full pitch and the Festival’s stage manager could barely see us reaching our opening positions and waiting for the lights to appear. Two weeks later, the big wave came... Continue Reading >>
Fairy Tales
What comes to your mind when you think about fairy tales? If you were raised in the United States, it might be an iconic Disney movie like Snow White – a children’s story teaching resilience and celebrating beauty with all the magic of the movies. Or, perhaps, you conjure the beloved stories by Hans Christian Andersen with their bittersweet themes of longing and persistent struggle against adversity – favorites of children ever since their publication in the mid-nineteenth century. Or you might... Continue Reading >>
Looking for Cloud Man
Welcome to Imaginate! In May of 2012 a colleague and I had the good fortune to travel to Edinburgh for the Imaginate Festival, one of the largest and most ground-breaking festivals in Europe featuring performances for young audiences. After flying all night we stepped off the plane into the murky, drenched Scottish landscape. Unsurprisingly, the rain was falling down in sheets. Mary Kate braves the Scottish weather. I was aching for a cup of coffee, knowing... Continue Reading >>
Revisiting Hansel and Gretel
Under the Stars is a delightful retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel. Their story seems to be in the air these days—or at least on the opera stage and coming soon to your local cinema. But fear not, unlike the recent Lyric Opera production and the soon to be released Hollywood blockbuster, Under the Stars is indeed for children. But it’s not only for children. It is for anyone who values good storytelling, gorgeous puppets, and the use of familiar objects in... Continue Reading >>
Stages 2013
This year’s Stages, Sights & Sounds festival takes on fairy tales, bringing six companies from around the world to Chicago to present classic and re-imagined versions that will delight children and adults alike. Even though many of the fairy tales we hear again and again are hundreds of years old, they still feel fresh—perhaps not to exhausted parents who dread the umpteenth telling of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” in the hopes that their child will finally drift off to sleep. To... Continue Reading >>