The sights and sounds of summer are filled with laughter, running, jumping, and lots of good times. Lying in the grass and staring at clouds in the sky imagining all the different shapes they can take is another way children can let loose when classes wrap up for the school year. The Memphis Children’s Theater Festival plans to capture the whimsy of summertime through a renaissance fair over Memorial Day weekend that combines all of those activities through theater.
“Theatre, music, art, dance are all utilized to strengthen the imagination for kids of all ages,” says Jenny Madden, co-founder of Voices of the South, which produces the festival.
Theater is not just fun and games. A study by the University of Arkansas revealed live theater as essential for youth. It enhances literary knowledge while also building tolerance and empathy among kids. Another added benefit of theater is that it improves communication and listening skills, increases vocabulary, and develops interpretation skills.
Live theater experiences also develop the self-discipline needed to be part of an attentive audience. However, few students have access to live theater experiences. It’s estimated that only 4 percent of schools make theater available to students in the elementary school level, when their minds are most open to such involvement.
The Memphis Children’s Theater Festival was created in 2006 to offer the benefits of theater to local children and their families. Housed on the grounds of Rhodes College and inside its McCoy Theatre, the two-day annual event fosters creativity and helps build imagination through short live performances perfect for young minds.
“The festival is the only event of its kind in our region, and participating families are exposed to a meaningful and diverse arts experience without breaking the bank,” says Madden.
The range of experiences for festival participants caters to elementary up to college-age students. One of the most exciting elements of the annual festival is a new work created by Voices of the South college interns. Children sing along as the play explores fairy tales, mythology, and humorous perspectives to everyday life. “The Boy Who Fell From the Sky” is the name of this year’s production.
The festival doesn’t stop at live theater exposure. All of the arts disciplines are experienced during the weekend. From dance-based movement and music performances to drawing and storytelling breaks, the left side of the brain is engaged for whole-child development. Kick off the study-free summer at the Memphis Children’s Theatre Festival, where creativity is king.
Memphis Children’s Theater Festival Line-up
Chatterbox Audio Theatre
Another highly anticipated festival component is the performance by Chatterbox Audio Theatre, a group that creates fully soundscaped audio works for the internet. Recorded live with manual sound effects and as little post-production editing as possible, Chatterbox brings a new show each year. Audience members engage in the manual sound effects like the old-time radio shows. Chatterbox adds the performance to their online audio plays for free streaming and download later during the summer.
Additional confirmed theater groups include Theatre Memphis and Children’s Ballet Theatre. Arkansas’ mömandpöp troupe will make a show-stopping entrance to the Children’s Theatre Festival with two performances this year.
Family Arts Corridor
A Family Arts Corridor introduces attendees to community arts groups. The tented area provides an opportunity for parents to explore summer programs while their children visit different craft stations. Every child exits with original artwork and activities to continue through the summer.
The outdoor stage will see the return of aerial acrobats and kid karaoke, surrounded by a costume closet and other hands-on activities. Budding musicians can explore their interest in music through the musical petting zoo. Memphis musicians will work with little hands as they explore the sound and feel of multiple instruments.
Produced by Voices of the South, the Children Theatre Festival occurs Friday evening, May 25, and all day Saturday, May 26. The celebration has a pay-what-you-can admission, which is paramount to the festival’s vision that income should not limit a families’ access to quality arts. Visit voicesofthesouth.org for more information.