If it were a normal night, the lobby theater would have inspired moans and groans from regular theater patrons. Babies were crying, moms were nursing, toddlers were running here, there and everywhere. But on a Friday morning at 10 a.m., these sights and sounds were just fine. At the Chicago Children’s Theatre production of Dot and Ziggy, these sights and sounds were just right.
Right at the moment my son was wondering if anything was ever going to happen, we heard the strains of an intriguing melody coming our way. Around the corner appeared two characters who were obviously “Dot” (played by Roni Geva) and “Ziggy” (played by Don Darryl Rivera). Kids mouths dropped as they watched, entranced, the musical duo perform their song together.
At the end of the song, we were invited up to the theater space, invited to choose a carpet triangle to sit on and to leave through the open door whenever necessary. We followed Dot and Ziggy up to the “theater”–a large, bright, open room with cheerful props and four large carpet triangles for seating (I will definitely pick something besides a skirt to wear the next time we go!). There truly was not a bad seat in the house since the action took place all around the room.
My one-year-old and four-year-old were equally engaged in the actions, songs and storyline. Even though a ladybug and a skunk seem to have nothing in common, they learn to share and be considerate of the other’s preferences with the kindly advice of a helpful spider. My one-year-old occasionally got up and walked out into the acting space; I just made sure to bring her back to our carpet when she was going to be in the way. Instead of an intermission, we all stood up and joined in a rousing version of Hokey-Pokey before sitting down again for “Act 2.”
To be honest, everyone was doing so well paying such close attention and the story was so engaging that I forgot to pay attention to how long it lasted. The play is geared specifically for babies and toddlers (ages 6 months to 4 years). I appreciated the delightful opportunity to do something special with my younger two children while the older two were in school. I got to see my one-year-old join with us in the motions for “Itsy-bitsy Spider” and my four-year-old showed Ziggy that he sided with him in the battle over “in and out.”
Theater for the young has been common in Italy for 25 years and in Europe and Australia for nearly as long but this is my first experience with a true theater production that is specifically geared for those 4 and under. I have brought my younger two along to productions that were catering to elementary age children without incident, but this is the first time that my toddler has been targeted to participate and engage.
When the play started, I admit to feeling skeptical. So often productions for kids are dumbed down to a degree that parents and kids alike feel is cheap and uninspiring. But as the play continued, I felt engaged and interested in how the skunk and ladybug would be able to resolve their differences. I laughed out loud at times at the antics of the two characters. And I watched in awe as my toddler continued to follow their activities (with her eyes!) all around the room.
If you are looking for an opportunity to introduce theater to even your very young children, I would highly recommend the performance of Dot and Ziggy at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. The production runs now through June 26, 2001. Performances for babies, toddlers, care-givers, parents, day cares and preschools are 10 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. and Noon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $16 weekdays and $18 weekends.
photo courtesy of the Chicago Children’s Theatre
I received complimentary tickets to the show for myself and my two youngest kids. Regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.