Planning to attend the 2018 EQT Children’s Theater Festival?
Prepare to be dazzled for an entire weekend!
A group of “rare chatty zebras” — also known as a “dazzle” — will weave through the festival, preening and prancing around various outdoor locations in the Cultural District. What makes them so rare? For one, these zebras have been to finishing school. (And they’re actually human actors from the Australian Born in a Taxi performance company.)
The idea of setting the zebras free in the crowd, “is to surprise and delight with small-scale theater in unexpected places,” says Pamela Komar, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s director of theater, music and youth programming.
Free fun for everyone
For 32 years, the festival — presented by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust from May 17-20 — has made it possible for kids to enhance their understanding of other cultures without a passport. Along with international theater performances, there will be plenty of free fun with over 30 hands-on and recreational activities. Highlights include:
- Silkscreened relief prints on paper and tote bags, led by Artists Image Resource (AIR), featuring imagery from the upcoming 2018-2019 season of the EQT Children’s Theater Festival, Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series and EQT Bridge Theater Series.
- Readings of “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by volunteers from Citiparks’ Alphabet Trail and Tales.
- Kid Flix: 14 international animated and short films — including Audience Award winners from last year’s New York International Children’s Film Festival — screening at the Harris Theater.
- Fun fitness activities, from Nerf tennis with Citiparks Tennis to family yoga and mindfulness practice with Pittsburgh Yoga Collective (Saturday) and Yoga with Ali Popivchak (Sunday).
- An array of activities from Kidsburgh and Remake Learning Days, from circuitry blocks to flowers made from upcycled magazine pages.
- An adaptive dance class from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and DIY fidget toys from Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, to complement Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s sensory-friendly performance of “The Rainbow Fish” on May 19.
- A hands-on, creative cartooning experience with the ToonSeum for kids age 7 and up.
- “The Gray Cat and the Flounder” presented by the shadow puppet theater at Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
These activities and more will run continuously during festival hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 17 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 18-20). All activities and performances are within walking distance, so when one activity ends, you’re sure to catch the beginning of something new within minutes. Don’t worry about the forecast — fun is on the agenda, rain or shine.
All that walking is sure to work up an appetite. Families can enjoy snacks and meals — from healthy choices to indulgent treats — at a number of food trucks. The lineup will change daily, but visitors can expect to see these options pop up:
- Sandwiches from BRGR and Oh My Grill.
- Salads, soups and wraps from Health-a-licious.
- Pita Pan.
- Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck.
- Frozen desserts from Curly’s Tin Rizzi and Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream.
Food trucks not your thing? Downtown restaurants specialize in everything from American fare and barbecue to gyros, Mediterranean and Indian food, and many are a short walk from the Cultural District. Many will offer special kids options during the festival weekend.
The Frog Stop scavenger hunt, sponsored by The Children’s Institute, will highlight key activities throughout the festival. Following the Frog Stop guide, children and their families can collect stickers at designated locations throughout the festival grounds to win a prize from Kate’s Kandy at 709 Liberty Ave.
Festival Guides will help families make the most of their visit, offering show recommendations and directions. Just look for their green vests and tents at locations all over the festival route. For special accessibility needs, all facilities are handicapped-accessible.
The main event
Though the festival is free, featured performances require tickets priced at $9. Discounts are offered for additional shows. Families can purchase pre-paid parking vouchers through the box office at Theater Square. Day-of parking availability will be updated in real time on www.parkpgh.org.
Performances are offered at multiple times each day and each show is about an hour or less, which means families can catch the whole lineup over the course of a weekend.
“With a little bit of planning, it is possible to see three or more shows in a single day,” says Komar.
For example, on Saturday or Sunday, she recommends starting with a show in the 10 a.m. time slot, followed by an 11:45 a.m. performance and a break for lunch and what she calls “adventuring.” That still leaves time for another show at 1:45 or 2:45 pm before wrapping up the day.
But, Komar adds, “Plan ahead, as many of the shows take place in small theaters and tickets go fast!”
Ticketed performances include:
- The baby-friendly “Poggle” is about a little boy who befriends a magical woodland creature. Recommended for ages 6 months to 4 years.
- Compagnia TPO of Italy’s “Panda’s Home” follows a panda’s footsteps on an interactive journey to China. For ages 4 and older.
- Slingsby Theatre Company of Australia asks “what kind of king would you be?” in “The Young King” when a boy is discovered to be heir to the kingdom. For ages 7 and older.
- An immersive interpretation of a 13th-century epic West African legend takes place in “Sunjata Kamalenya,” For all ages.
- The music of two-time Grammy winner Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience was featured in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” For all ages.
- And “The Rainbow Fish,” by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, Canada, is based on the award-winning book. For ages 3-8.