By Mary Boyle
Most parents today can probably recite a line or two from at least one of Dr. Suess's stories for children; the sing-song, zany rhymes and colorful illustrations have made these books a story time favorite for generations. What better way to introduce young children to theatre than through one of these well-loved tales? First Stage certainly thought so, and they invite children ages 3 and up to their special First Steps production of The Cat in the Hat.
First Steps plays are designed specially for the very young, and have the feel of a very souped up library story time. The productions are short, for shorter attention spans, and children can sit on mats up close to the stage, if they're feeling comfortable, or sit on the big steps next to, or on the lap of, their grown-up. The kind of jokes and audience participation that your average 3-5 year old would appreciate is used liberally and, with any luck, you walk away from the performance with a kid who has a new appreciation for live theatre.
Based on the book by Dr. Suess and adapted for the stage by Katie Mitchell, The Cat in the Hat is the story of two children stuck indoors on a rainy day with nothing to do when, quite suddenly, an unusually large cat wearing a hat (Sara Zientek) shows up on their doorstep and wants to play. Although their goldfish (a puppet who is masterfully brought to life by Justin Lee) warns the children not to let the cat inside while their mother is away, the cat is most persuasive, and full of fun games and tricks! There are two casts of young performers: the Nerkles Cast, featuring Greta Dane, Grace Fischer, Niya Iniguez, Arlo Sturrock, Isabel Williams and Nolan Zellemayer; and, the Wockets Cast, featuring Gauri Laroyia, Marika Marklin, Lucia Santana, Ben Stull, Ben Usatinsky and Josephine Van Slyke.
Children younger than three do attend the performances, but it's important to know your child; if they can sit through a 30 minute television show quietly, they're probably ready for First Steps. If you haven't read the story with your child before, reading it to them helps them to know what to expect. There's a talk-back after the performance, when children can ask the performers questions, and they can even meet some of the young performers after the show. First Steps performances are an excellent way to introduce young children to live theatre, and First Stage is the perfect company to make the introductions!
The Cat in the Hat runs through February 25th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. A special Sensory Friendly Performance, with accommodations for families with children on the autism spectrum, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are available by calling (414) 273-7206, or online at www.firststage.org.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building, and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts for its Next Steps program for students with autism (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).