Hah! Did you think that the Kennedy Center forgot about you just because you are, like, eight years old? No way. The enormous theatrical machine that is the Kennedy Center will turn out seventeen productions of theater, music and dance in its Theater for Young Audience 2018-2019 program. Some of them only run for one o two days, so pay attention.
The season for those not yet in their salad days begins with American Revolution, a 50-minute recreation of the entire American revolution from Lexington to Yorktown, done by 7 actors from the physical theater group, Theater Unspeakable. Everything happens two feet off the ground in the Family Theater. This will run from October 12-14, 2018. Recommended for age 9 and older.
Many guns fired in the American Revolution, but it gets a little more personal for fifteen-year-old Will. See, he has a gun in his waistband, and his job is to decide whether to kill the guy who killed his brother Shawn. If this sounds a little like Hamlet, understand that you can never get the answer to this question right, and so it keeps getting asked. This particular question was asked and answered in the Newberry Honor Book, Long Way Down, which has been transformed into a play and will run October 27-29 of this year at the Family Theater. Recommended for 12 years of age and up.
If you haven’t reached that age, don’t despair — there’s the Halloween Spooktacular, hosted by the National Symphony Orchestra, in the concert hall on October 28, 2018. The musicians will wear scary costumes and play scary songs, all for those age 5 and up.
Did you ever try to catch a star? Of course not. They weigh trillions of tons and radiate enough heat to fry you to a crisp. However, your perspective might be different if you were about three years old. The Kennedy Center has transformed Oliver Jeffer’s small tale, How to Catch a Star, into a multi-media, movement-based production, designed to show you how to be very young, and in love with the universe. At the Family Theater November 21 to December 16, 2018. Recommended for age 3 and up.
As the sun shines in the day, and the moon (usually) glows in the night, so too does the holiday season bring us The Nutcracker. This year, the Kennedy Center will host Ballet West, which promises big drama, opulent sets, and spectacular special effects. Choreography by William Christensen, music by the immortal Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. From December 5-9 of this year in the Opera House; recommended for ages 5 and up.
Also for the holiday season, the Washington National Opera will reprise The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, the story of the surprise selection of a dark horse to attend the very first Christmas. The great Jeanne Tesori (Fun Home; Caroline, or Change) provides the music; J.D. McClatchy provides the book from Jeanette Winterson’s original children’s story, and WNO Artistic Director Francesco Zambello directs. This will be in the Terrace Theater December 12-16, 2018. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
And to close out the year on a musical note: the Kennedy Center will bring in Timbalooloo Live!, in which a group of musicians animate not only the music but the instruments themselves, getting them, the Kennedy Center says, to talk with each other. You can get a sense of what they’re about by watching their video. From December 26 to 31 of this year; for ages 3 or up.
We begin the new year with an exploration of the refugee’s life in his new and uncertain world. Cartography is a collaboration between Christopher Myers and Kaneza Schaal, and is based on their work with refugees throughout the world. From January 11-13, 2019, in the Family Theater. Recommended for ages 9 and older.
The Family Theater hosts the international band Banda Magda, which plays its own unique combination of improvisational jazz and South American rhythms. Want to hear what they sound like? Click here. January 26 and 27 of next year. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
On February 9, 2019, the Kennedy Center will usher in The Year of the Pig with free events celebrating the Chinese Culture through the building.
The Kennedy Center’s commissioned work, She a Gem — a story about four girls living in a transition home in inner city Philadelphia — will make its debut at the Family Center on February 15 of next year. The girls have formed a double dutch team (this is a jump rope thing, for those of us not in the know) to compete in the neighborhood pageant, with the winners getting their fortune told by the neighborhood psychic. Playing through February 24. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
The National Symphony Orchestra will play Let’s Go to the Moon!, a concert inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, on February 24, 2019. (Yes, it’s been fifty years. No, we don’t have flying cars yet.) For ages 50 and up — no, wait, I’m sorry, for ages 5 and up, in the Concert Hall.
Young Kenny Watson and his family decide to spend the summer — and maybe longer — with his grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama, after older brother Byron gets into a spot of trouble in Flint, Michigan. It is June of 1963, and what the Watson’s don’t know is that they are heading toward a great deal more trouble — specifically, the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. The Kennedy Center brings The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, adapted for the stage from Christopher Paul Curtis’ young-adult novel. This will be a concert version, read by playwright Christine Ham (Nina Simone: Four Women) and accompanied by live music. From March 15-24, 2019, in the Eisenhower Theater.Recommended for ages 9 and up.
We’re back in space again for VOYAGERS: a Dance Among the Planets, in which the magician Uranus takes a young stargazer around the solar system to the music of Gustav Holst’s The Planets. The Kennedy Center has commissioned Company | E to create this piece, which will combine music with dance and, the Kennedy Center promises, a bit of Einstein. March 29-31 of next year, in the Family Theater. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
The National Symphony Orchestra is back with another concert for young people on April 7, 2019 in the Concert Hall. This one will be The Travels of Babar, a suite which will include the U.S. premiere of Return to the Land of Elephants. This concert will be based on the Babar stories. In case you don’t speak Child, Babar is himself an elephant, who escaped the jungle and lived among men for a while. Returning home, his colleagues make him King. In the book “The Travels of Babar”, King Babar and his wife set out for their honeymoon in a hot-air balloon, but through mishap they are captured by an animal trainer and put to work. After escaping, they return home just in time to lead the elephants in their war against the rhinoceroses. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
You’ll get a chance to introduce your child to opera and to talk with her about race when the Kennedy Center stages The Me I Want to Sing at the Family Theater on April 13 of next year. This will feature selections from the great contralto Marian Anderson interspersed with spoken-word sections focused on the challenges which African Americans have faced in the performing arts. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Or maybe you’d like to introduce your child to the world of musical instruments — see them taken apart, put together, combined with other instruments and played by two gifted musicians. If so, you may be interested in taking them to Break it Down!, which you can preview by clicking this link. Break it Down! will be in the Family Theater April 27 and 28, 2019. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
The KC’s regular season for young audiences wraps up with Colors, an entry from Italy’s dance company Compagnia TPO which, the Kennedy Center promises, “brings colors to life. The dancers enter a world where body, colors and space become the space of relationships and emotions. In turn these relationships extend outward to involve the members of the audience.” Cick here to see the Compagnia TPO website to see what they’re about. May 18-19 of next year, in the Family Theate. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
The Kennedy Center also announces that it’s production of Me…Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodell, roundly praised by astute critics everywhere, will be on national tour from January to May of 2019.