The oldest of its kind in our country, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts’ INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL celebrates its 30th birthday in 2014. With a roster of affordable family-friendly presentations of theater, puppetry, and music from around the world, along with a hands-on Fun Zone filled with interactive cultural experiences in the Center’s outdoor plaza (or, in the case of inclement weather, inside in the lobby), this springtime tradition is a great way to introduce kids to the arts, and to reintroduce adults to their magic!
Among the six featured offerings running in repertory during the five-day festival is ME AND MY SHADOW, a captivating collaboration between Australia’s Patch Theatre Company and Philadelphia’s PAPAYA (PA Performing Arts for Young Audiences). The all-ages show explores the ups and downs of friendship, as a girl and her shadow become playmates and companions through a series of fantastic encounters, imaginative physical feats, and clever visual tricks that will leave even the grown-ups in the audience amazed. Using light and shadow, paper, music, words, and sound, the performers’ non-stop movements and moods are in perfect synch with each other, with their props, and with the score. SHADOW TOWN, an interactive exhibit by Whit MacLaughlin of New Paradise Laboratories and Sebastienne Mundheim of White Box Theatre, augments the performance with a walk-through miniature village of paper bags and cardboard shadow puppets with which kids are invited to improvise.
New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater, featured on the popular TV competition “America’s Got Talent,” presents a double-bill of updated children’s classics: THE UGLY DUCKLING and THE TORTOISE & THE HARE. Combining the post-modern technology of electroluminescent puppetry with music, the colorful show brings the beloved tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Aesop into the 21st century, while retaining their age-old didactic themes and moral lessons. Though the running time seems a bit long for its intended five-to-eight-year-old audiences and the sometimes slow-paced show could have used some edits, the dazzling display of light, playful use of classical and contemporary music, and enchanting movements of the familiar animal characters and floating props should make this a crowd-pleaser well beyond the recommended age group. [The Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia] April 30-May 4 ; www.annenbergcenter.org.