Now in its 17th season, Brooklyn Center for the Performing
Arts’ FamilyFun series continues to bring large-scale, internationally
acclaimed performances right to the heart of Brooklyn.
"We want to provide extraordinary, quality performances at an affordable price for Brooklyn’s young people," producing director Julie Pareles told GO Brooklyn in a telephone interview.
The shows target children ages 4 to 12, which means parents can bring little and big sisters and brothers. And, of course, there’s something for everyone, says Pareles, "from the traditional theater of TheatreWorks to the less conventional art form of the Potato People" who fill the stage with colorful costumes, larger-than-life masks and movement.
Storyteller David Gonzalez opens the series on Nov. 3 with MytholoJazz. First presented at Manhattan’s New Victory Theater in 1999, MytholoJazz is a be-bop and cool jazz interpretation of several myths and fables.
Gonzalez hosted WNYC’s New York Kids from 1992 through 2000 and has performed at many schools in Brooklyn and metropolitan New York City. He says the show "marries my two loves: the world of stories and the wonderful world of jazz."
Composer and Fort Greene resident D.D. Jackson has created a score that will be performed by pianist Daniel Kerry, who also lives in Fort Greene; Park Slope bassist Mark Dresser; and drummer James Jaiters.
Gonzalez will use his vocal and narrative talent to retell Aesop’s classic "The Lion and the Mouse," and the Chilean folk tale, "Delgadina."
"I chose these stories because they are full of great characters, fantastic situations and good, clear messages," said Gonzalez, whose show is appropriate for children ages 6 and older.
Fans of Scholastic Book’s and Nickelodeon TV’s series "Franklin the Turtle" will certainly recognize the hero of "Franklin’s Big Adventure," the first full-length musical based on the mischievous turtle, his pet fish Goldie, his stuffed dog Sam and his friends, the fun-loving forest animals. Franklin’s adventures deal with predicaments very young children often encounter. This Dec. 2 performance is ideal for children ages 3 to 8.
During its 40 years of presenting quality children’s theater, TheatreWorks/USA’s productions have been presented in every state of the union except Hawaii.
"We travel in vans and we can’t get across the water," explains assistant company manager Paula Marchiel. All productions are created by TheatreWorks for TheatreWorks. Some are based on older works like "Charlotte’s Web" and "Ferdinand the Bull." Some are based on history like "The Mystery of King Tut."
TheatreWorks’ "Peter Pan," scheduled for Jan. 26, is based on John Caird and Trevor Nunn’s adaptation, which was originally developed for London’s Royal Shakespeare Company.
In the spirit of J.M. Barrie’s original tale, director David Schechter tells the story through the eyes of seven children who are living in the Edwardian England of the early 1900s and decide on "Peter Pan" for that evening’s play-acting. By adding a few simple props to their wardrobe of nightshirts and dressing gowns, the children are transformed into the classic characters of Peter Pan, Wendy, John, Michael and the Lost Boys. This pirate-filled fantasy is appropriate for children ages 5 to 10.
Imago Theatre returns to Brooklyn Center on Feb. 24 with a host of frogs, penguins, worms, lizards and other mischief-making creatures in "Frogz," a production that combines movement, mime and an amusing, whimsical story. Dressed in ingenious masks and outlandish costumes, the actors create a carnival of the absurd and wreak havoc on and off stage. "Frogz" is for kids ages 4 and older.
Direct from Taipei, "The National Acrobats of China" bring their tumblers, jugglers, cyclists and contortionists to the Brooklyn Center on March 10. The troupe trains at the National Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy and is considered by many to be the foremost acrobatic company from China. Their deft use of tables, ladders and plates will astound youngsters who witness this age-old art form. (Remember kids, don’t try these stunts at home.) The show is appropriate for ages 4 and older - because parents will be just as slack-jawed by these contortionists as their wee ones.
FamilyFun ends on May 11 with the "Potato People - Nothin’ But Trouble" from Theatre Beyond Words, Canada’s International Visual Theatre Company. With oversized masks, colorful costumes and captivating movement, Momma, Poppa and little Nancy Potato will introduce young people to the wonderful, wacky world of mime. For children ages 4 and older.
The Brooklyn Center’s 2,400-seat auditorium allows for large-scale theater, large audiences and real production values that are "impressive and inspiring for young children," says Pareles.
Combine this with on-site parking, close proximity to public transportation and affordable ticket prices (at a fraction of Manhattan’s theater prices - but with the same talented theater troupes) and it’s easy to see why over the past 17 years, FamilyFun has become a Brooklyn tradition.
All Family Fun performances are at the Walt Whitman Theater on the campus of Brooklyn College (one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues) on Saturdays or Sundays at 2 pm. Subscription prices range from $40 to $54, individual tickets from $12 to $20. For tickets or information, call the box office at (718) 951-4500.