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Children's Festival brings new Luminarium, theater for youngest kids, free outdoor activities

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

There are so many free, outdoor activities at the 26th Annual Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival May 16-20 in Oakland, from storytelling to dance and magic, that “some people miss that it’s a theater festival at its heart,” says Pamela K. Lieberman, the festival’s executive director.

Lieberman is hoping that one festival event in particular inspires patrons to try some of the ticketed theater performances. Artist Alan Parkinson is back with another Luminarium, called Mirazozo – a colorful, football field-sized inflated light labyrinth. The experience of being inside this structure, she says, could “help inspire audiences to see something [else] that is in a more traditional theater setting.”

They include “Plop!” by Australia’s Windmill Theatre, a play about a courageous rabbit, the unpleasant Plop and the fear of the unknown, geared to the very youngest children, ages 1 to 5. “Children are ready to see theater when they are that small,” says Lieberman, but “it’s a new aspect of the field,” and parents may not yet understand how their kids can benefit from, and enjoy, theater as preschoolers.

Other theatrical features are World of Rhythm by Netherlands’ Drums United, featuring percussion from across the globe; Dudes, described as a “mix of song, dance, juggling, puppetry and slap-stick comedy” for 6-year-olds and up, also from the Netherlands; Scotland’s Shona Reppe Puppets performing Cinderella; and Origami Tales from Kuniko Theater, whose folded paper creations are part of Japanese storytelling.

The free activities encompass everything from last year’s Silent Disco (offering kids headphones that pick up several DJs) to a hula-hoop maker and interactive demonstrations by artists who have won the Sprout Fund’s Spark Awards for innovative ideas at the intersection of the arts and technology aimed at children.

“Our mission … is that the children are seeing culture and art from around the world, and walking away with new ideas and creative inspiration,” says Lieberman. “It’s really important that families are experiencing this together. We’re now seeing the third generation come through as audience members, so it’s really exciting.”

The Pittsburgh International Children's Festival is a production of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

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Writer: Marty Levine

Source: Pamela K. Lieberman, Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

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