There's always room for one more in Children's Theatre Company's production of The Biggest Little House in the Forest adapted by Rosanna Staffa from the book by Djemma Bider. CTC Acting Company Member Autumn Ness skillfully creates a wonderful collection of characters and brings each of them to vivid life. The imaginative set and puppets are designed by Eric J. Van Wyk. The Cargill Stage will be magically converted to an intimate, preschool-sized forest, gently welcoming toddlers into the performance space to play. The Biggest Little House in the Forest runs January 24 through March 17.
The Biggest Little House in the Forest experience is unlike that of any other CTC production. The children, many of whom are attending their first live production, assemble in the Cargill Lobby and remove their shoes to put on soft, handmade booties. There is no playbill, no loudspeaker pre-show announcement, and no fourth wall. Actor Autumn Ness opens the door to invite the children into the theatre and show them to the cozy area in which they may sit, or dance. She tells the story of Bernice the Butterfly, who transforms an abandoned house into a bright, cheery home that she constantly adapts to meet the needs of her friends. This production exemplifies the respect CTC artists have for the aesthetic exchange that can occur with the youngest audiences.
CTC is the only theatre in the United States that is employing the expertise of creative artists from around the world to create high quality work for two to five year olds. Rachel Austin Bernstein, manager of CTC's preschool educational program Early Bridges, explains that while these toddlers are dancing and catching bubbles, critical developmental occurrences are taking place. Bernstein explains, "Professional theatre experiences for the very young can support children's social-emotional, cognitive, and creative development. By promoting other forms of literacy, such as storytelling and oral language, young children develop their sequencing and recall skills as well as their storytelling abilities. Early learners exposed to theatre are shown to have more complex imaginative and dramatic play."
Having such a young audience is different for Autumn Ness as well. She explains, "The level of involvement is unlike anything I've experienced as an actor, with the audience constantly telling the characters where to go, what to do, even what they had for breakfast that morning. Things that the 'proper, polite, seasoned' theatre-going audience have accepted, they won't stand for. For instance, if there is music playing, we should be dancing! If something important in happening, we must go get a closer look! And for heaven's sake, if bubbles come your way, catch them! I have been able to perform this show at our theatre, preschools across the state, and even at the Star Studio located in The Children's Hospital for both the Minneapolis/St. Paul campuses. And the show has never been the same twice in a row!"
The Biggest Little House in the Forest runs January 24 - March 17, 2013 on the Cargill Stage. As part of CTC's commitment to programming for ages two through eighteen, The Biggest Little House in the Forest is recommended for toddlers age two and up. Tickets are on sale now starting at $10. Affordable ticket packages are also still available. For more information visit us online at childrenstheatre.org or call the Ticket Office at 612.874.0400.