Being a part of the Chicago Dads Group means being in “the know” about fun family activities in Chicago. Saturday our family was able to check out The Chicago Children’s Theatre open house at their newly-opened venue “The Station.” This new venue at 100 S. Racine in the West Loop occupies a former Chicago Police Department station, hence the name, and is sure to be a great place for good family fun for the foreseeable future..
The new Children’s Theatre space is fully accessible with large family-focused restrooms that have changing tables, there’s stroller parking, elevators, etc. all while preserving the exterior of the structure.
For two hours, The Station had an open house for families to experience a wide range of activities showing off the renovated building. If you go, be sure to check out the staircase that will be the home of the donor recognition area-it’s filled with photos of the crumbling building from the police days and the transformation will amaze you. The new Children’s Theatre space is fully accessible with large family-focused restrooms that have changing tables, there’s stroller parking, elevators, etc. all while preserving the exterior of the structure.
Pre-registering made check-in very easy. All the staff was super friendly. Despite the halls being packed they kept everything moving efficiently even offering free snacks and drinks.
Our first stop after hanging up our coats was to check out some of the free live music being offered downstairs. They also had stations setup to allow the kids to experiment with shadow puppetry. (You’ll see why in a minute.) This downstairs space also had a desk with registration for programming and a discount for open house participants. We quickly decided to head upstairs to the 2nd floor where 5 large classrooms make up the Education Corridor and all contained a sampling of regular CCT offerings.
…A brief lesson on the history of hip hop: ‘it is YOURS and people like you invented it here in America!’
Room 5 was a class called “Move It! Move It!” which ended up being my kids’ favorite. It was hip hop dance instruction from a very energetic teacher who encouraged the kids to feel confident while learning their new moves. After a brief lesson on the history of hip hop (“it is YOURS and people like you invented it here in America!”) she taught them some basic steps and ended the 15 minute session with a short game of trying to mimic the person before you. So fun!
The sample classes in each room were broken up by age and type. Room 2 was crafts and a “Teeny Tales” time where a teacher facilitated some pretend play to practice young drama skills. Room 4 was a filmmaker who teaches kids to make Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math videos along with an ongoing music duo who sang songs about vocabulary and feelings. My kids learned the word “antonym.”
My son’s goal for the open house had been to return to Room 5 for a class in Aerial Arts and Tumbling. It was marked as being available to ages 6 and up, but only the 8 year-olds could really participate (younger kids just sat on the floor and watched, unfortunately) so we opted for back downstairs instead. That ended up being much better.
It was a wonderful way for kids to understand the theatre process and how much work goes into showing off the finished production.
In the actual theatre space, there was an rehearsal for Manual Cinema’s Magic City which will be the inaugural performance in the new space. It’s an adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s fantasy novel and uses shadow puppets, live actors in silhouette, miniatures, and more to tell the story. Open house visitors were free to come and go as the cast and crew practiced music cues, the use of props, forgot lines, and generally needed to stop and restart over and over. It was a wonderful way for kids to understand the theatre process and how much work goes into showing off the finished production. My 5 and 6 year old didn’t want to leave and asked to come back to see the real play. That should tell you something.
If you’re interested in learning more about all that Chicago Children’s Theatre has to offer you can find them at www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org. Magic City runs from January 31 to February 19.