The Kennedy Center’s 2019-2020 season for young audiences will feature work from Education Artist-in-Residence, perhaps better know as author, illustrator (Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant & Piggie) Mo Willems, five productions from The Netherlands, and productions staged in the newest area of the Kennedy Center, which is scheduled to open in September of 2019.
First of all, though, will be Kid Prince and Pablo, Brian Quijda’s hip-hop updating of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. In Twain’s story, a monarch-to-be and the son of a poor tenant farmer are accidentally switched at birth. In this version — well, there are looping machines and drum pads, but the accidental nature of privilege never goes away. From October 19 to November 3, 2019, in the Family Theatre. The KC recommends this one to folks from age nine up.
After the National Symphony Orchestra performs its traditional Halloween Spooktacular on October 20, the Kennedy Center will commence a brief run of Balancing Bodies on Halloween. From the Dutch dance theater company Woerst, this performance involves folks on rolling chairs and you, the audience, creating mischief. Until November 2 of this year at the Terrace Theatre; from ages nine up.
The Kennedy Center inaugurates its new performance space for young audiences, with GET ‘M, a show which starts with three adults in a television studio fighting for a microphone (a familiar scene in Washington); things go downhill from there. Puppets are involved. From the Dutch theater company Bontehond, this show has only two play dates: November 2 and 3, 2019. At the new REACH Studio F; for ages 3 and up.
Ready for a little mime? In EGG-tion Hero, the mission is to prevent the Great Egg from being stolen. Good luck, guys! The Dutch theater dance company Maas produces the action, which will also be at REACH Studio F. For ages 3 and up, on November 9 and 10 of this year.
On November 23 and 24, 2019 REACH Studio F will host Peter and Friends, which takes Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and plays with it a little. Audience member will be invited to quack like ducks and hunt for the wicked wolf. The National Symphony Orchestra collaborates with Atlanta’s TELLEER PRODUCTIONS on this one. From infants to age five.
Also on November 23 of this year, young audiences and their families are invited to look at excerpts for the Maurice Sendak-designed version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Opera House. In addition to the excerpts, the Kennedy Center staff will provide some lessons on stagecraft as it applies to this production.
For the holiday season, Mr. Willems gets to work with a musical version of his Caldecott-winning story, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! As an admonition, this is pretty straightforward (and eminently reasonable) but as a story it is layered and complex. The bus driver is leaving and warns his passengers not to let the pigeon drive the bus. You know what happens next. Is this an allegory about the death of God? Hah! In addition to the Caldecott Award, Willems’ story was an American Library Association Notable Book and a National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book. Willems has adapted this as a musical in collaboration with Deborah Wicks LaPuma (Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play!; Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed), who provides the music. From November 23, 2019 to January 5, 2020 in the Family Theater; for ages 5 and up.
Another Dutch company, the Oorkaan musicians, kick off the new year for the Kennedy Center TYA program with Glimpse, a deeply-considered mixture of sound, light and technology performed for the very young by master jazz musicians. You’ll only get a glimpse of Glimpse; they’ll be at the Terrace Gallery for two days, January 11 and 12 of next year. For ages two to four.
In the dead of winter, the NSO will present three musical events for the young’uns. Beauty and the Beat, January 18 and 19, 2020 at the Family Theater, will be a collaboration between NSO Principal Second Violinist Marissa Regni and Principal Percussionist Eric Shin to show how these two instruments — not the first matching you might think of — can make beautiful music together. For ages three and up. Then, on February 16 of next year in the Concert Hall, the Kennedy Center and NSO will present Girl Power!, featuring women composers, conductors, and performers of the last hundred years. For ages five and up. Finally, on February 22 and 23 of next year in the Family Theater will be the Mozart Mash-Up, featuring the compositions of everyone’s favorite, Wolfgang Amadeus. Mozart is a particularly good choice for young audiences, as he began writing compositions at the age of four. No pressure, boys and girls! For ages seven and up.
South Korea’s Brush Theatre comes in on February 29 and March 1, 2020 to produce Yao Yao in the Family Theater. This is the story of a little girl who is extremely annoyed that daddy has to stop playing with her and go to work every morning. (So is daddy, I’ll bet). She grabs a thread of his coat; it begins to unravel, and with that, she’s off on a magical adventure. For ages three to seven; uses interactive screen art technology and live music.
Interested in having your kids experience a little biculturism? The Kennedy Center brings 1 2 3 Andrés to the Family Theater on March 7 and 8 of next year. Andrés and Christina Salguero introduce the audience to Latin America through song, language, and imagination. For a taste of the show, click here. For ages three to six.
Ready for more Mo Willems? He collaborates with the NSO on April 19 in the Concert Hall to present Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, an adaptation of another of his well-received children’s books. In this one, Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and a Dinosaur visiting from Norway bake some pudding and then leave the house unattended. It’s not a trap, or anything. Featuring original music by Ben Folds, who is also the NSO’s artistic advisor. On April 19, 2020 at the Concert Hall; for ages five and up.
The final presentation from The Netherlands will be Pokon: An Unstoppable Game of Growth, from the dance company De Dansers, April 24-26 of next year in the Family Theater. I can’t figure out what this one is about, so I’ll just quote from the Kennedy Center’s press release: ” Like children raging over the playground, the three performers storm the stage. What follows is a whirling, twirling, hiccupping, tumbling, rumbling, and singing stream of playful necessity. Even though we are sometimes a little stuck—in a table, a ladder, or those persistent rules—Pokon is unstoppable.” For ages five and up.
From April 30 to May 20, 2020, Eric Coble’s solo show The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus will be resident in the Family Theater. This story, which will feature Tia Shearer, is about a young girl who along with her buddies builds a fort which is also a castle and a treehouse out of the junk in her back yard. Thereafter, they play while her mother goes out of town for the night. But then they confront a coyote — one that is human sized, and wears sunglasses and cowboy boots. “Coble has written a fun adventure story that uses a traditional storytelling method to bring to life both realistic characters and the fantasy-filled adventures they have,” says Gil Benbrook of Talkin’ Broadway. For ages seven and up.
On May 9-10 of next year, Paige Hernandez is in the house — or, more specifically, in the Family Theater, where the Kennedy Center will be showing her Havana Hop, in which young Yeila battles stage fright in an effort to become a Hip-Hop star. Helped by her mother and other mentors, Yelia travels to find her roots — and ends up in Cuba, where her grandmother teaches her to add salsa to her style. For ages two to ten.
You may be familiar with the struggle of the singer and songwriter Tuelo Minah to escape from apartheid-infected South Africa and come to the United States, only to find an unexpected hostility to immigrants. Zoey Martinson has memorialized that experience in fiction through a play called Dreamer: A South African Journey, in which Aene struggles to find a home in America. With music by Minah, arranged by Mandisi Dyantyis. From May 9-24, 2020 in REACH Studio K, in the new part of the building. For ages nine and up.
May 15-17 of next year will also mark the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices program, designed to stimulate playwrights and theaters to create new work for young audiences. It will feature staged readings, discussions and conferences; more on this as it develops.
Also in the planning stage: the Kennedy Center will stage a family day to celebrate the Lunar New Year and the inauguration of the Year of the Rat, celebrating Chinese culture with special programming for kids. More on this later, too.