22 ways kids can find their bliss at the EQT Children’s Theater Festival

Photo: “We Cover the Universe.” Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

This year’s 35th annual EQT Children’s Theater Festival continues its interactive fun in a virtual direction from May 1-16. The organizers at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust worked hard to create a festival atmosphere, despite missing out on all of those in-person smiling faces. But there will be plenty of giggles and laughs through the exciting lineup of international theater performances. And your family will delight in the roster of free programming that includes music, maker activities, storytelling and comedy.

Theatrical performances 

These featured performances are virtual, with tickets priced at $15 per device. Some performances will sell out in advance. Buy tickets here.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

1. “We Cover the Universe,” by Akin Theatre, from the United Kingdom.

This 30-minute performance of “We Cover the Universe” leads little ones on an interactive adventure that combines drawing, poetry and play to awaken their imaginations. To fully engage the sensory components, come prepared with paper, pencils or crayons, seeds or rice, a shallow bowl, an orange, a flashlight or phone light, a bottle of water and a colander. Or just settle back and watch for a more laid-back experience.

Best for ages 5 and younger. Performances are live on Zoom at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on May 8 and 15.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

2. “Aesop Bops!” by David Gonzalez and the Yak-Yak Band, from the United States.

This silly, fast-paced performance invites kids to join in as at-home participants. They’ll have a blast while singing and dancing along to classic Aesop’s Fables like “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Fisherman and His Wife” and “The Turtle’s Shell.” Running at 30 minutes, “Aesop Bops!” guarantees to get kids moving to the Yak-Yak Band’s fun and funky rock.

Best for ages 4-8. Performances are available on-demand from May 1-16.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

3. “The University of Wonder and Imagination,” by Cahoots NI, from Northern Ireland.

The University of Wonder and Imagination” is an interactive adventure in which the mysterious Professor Bamberg sends his students on a quest. Throughout the 60-minute show, kids will make choices based on subject matter, themed rooms and puzzles to unlock their magical powers. The mind-boggling brain teasers promise an immersive experience that will be magical for every player.

Best for ages 7 and older. Performances are live on Zoom at multiple times from May 13-16. The 4:30 p.m. performance on May 15 will be sensory-friendly.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

4. “MacHomer” by Kidoons, from Canada.

Love “The Simpsons?” Love Shakespeare? Rick Miller’s wild one-man show combines both in “MacHomer.” Miller performs a hilarious 70-minute interpretation of “Macbeth” using more than 50 voices of characters from “The Simpsons.” Students of English literature will recognize that 85% of the show remains true to Shakespeare’s script. The time-tested “MacHomer” has been touring for 17 years for good reason.

Best for ages 12 and older. Performances are available on-demand from May 1-16.

Free virtual field trips

The Trust is offering schools free access to these three performances to share with their students as virtual field trips:A Kids Play About Racism,” “MacHomer” and “Aesop Bops!”

Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Free Children’s Festival @ Home activities

Free activities will be available throughout the festival. The following programming can be accessed here from May 1-16.

5. “Under One Sky,” Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. For all ages. After months of virtual rehearsals, the final video features 38 singers who had yet to sing the song together in the same room. The release of the video comes just as Pittsburgh Youth Chorus prepares for its return to in-person programming.

6. “Art Transports Us,” Attack Theatre. For all ages. This virtual field trip to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier and Loretto highlights the cycle of inspiration from visual arts to student learners to professional dancers. Created in collaboration between Attack Theatre artists and third-grade students at Stanwood Elementary School, this video features 10 dance vignettes.

7. “Reach for the Stars,” Jumping Jack Theater. For K-5. Sensory-friendly. Join Jumping Jack Theater to travel to the sky for an interactive creative movement activity, then create a galaxy in a bottle.

8. Frog Stop Scavenger Hunt. For all ages. Complete 4 out of 6 steps in the Frog Stop Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win a free Milkshake Factory prize basket.

9. “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. For all ages. Enjoy a performance of “Three Billy Goats Gruff” from the artists at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.

10. Origami with Kuniko Yamamoto. For tweens and teens. Join Kuniko Yamamoto as she folds paper and shares a story.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

11. Windmill at Home, Windmill Theatre Company. For all ages. This new online platform presents favorite stories in a whole new way. Discover a whole suite of stories with Grug, a collection of hands-on activities and explore interactive (and award-winning) digital experiences.

12. “Gumbo with Terrance Simien,” Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience. For all ages. Get your family together and share the Simien family’s musical Gumbo.

13. Dan and Claudia Zanes. For all ages. Watch and listen to a song recorded just for families. Dan and Claudia Zanes share their rendition of “Walking Down Coney Island Avenue,” complete with a cameo by their puppy Rezi.

14, Make a Milkshake at Home, The Milkshake Factory. For all ages. Use a recipe from The Milkshake Factory to make your own cookies and cream milkshake at home.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

15. Creative Connections, Trust Arts Education. For all ages. Creative Connections are virtual learning tools designed by Trust Arts Education Teaching Artists for learners of all ages. With visual arts, movement, music and more, you can connect with the arts from wherever you are.

16. “Animal Beatbox,” New York International Children’s Film Festival’s Kid Flicks. For all ages. Enjoy a silly and short video of the “Animal Beatbox,” combining music with the names of animals you know and love and some that you will hear for the first time. After watching, kids can make their own animal beatbox.

17. Polyglot at Home, Polyglot Theatre Company. For all ages. Polyglot Theatre Company challenged their ingenious artists to come up with cool things to do with stuff that’s probably already in your house.

18. Lego Build Time-lapse, Steel City Lego User Group. For all ages. Watch along as the Steel City LUG builds a full-sized guitar out of Legos. Get inspired to build your own Lego creations.

19. “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes,” Citiparks. For all ages. Citiparks guides kids through a reading of this beloved book.

20. Build Your Own Miniature Town, Jamie Agnello. For all ages. Follow along with teaching artist Jamie Agnello as she builds a miniature town using recycled materials and art supplies.

21. May 15: Penny Arcade: Creative Play Family Workshop, Arcade Comedy Theater. For all ages. Penny Arcade presents a creative play workshop that uses improv comedy to teach lessons about collaboration, listening and using your imagination. Families can sign up to participate live on Zoom or tune in to watch a recording of the workshop.

22. May 16: Let’s Learn Chess, Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute. For all ages. Join Queen’s Gambit instructors at 11 a.m. to learn chess, gain new strategies and practice playing the game in a fun and engaging setting.