A live performance where children are not expected, or even encouraged, to stay in their seats is a dream come true for the five-and-under set. A live performance without any seats is even better. Imagination Stage knows what appeals to the youngest theatre-goers in Wake Up, Brother Bear!, the latest show in their popular My First Imagination Stage series. By allowing children to sit on a circular cloth that doubles as a stage, children are able to be a part of the show rather than spectators. Being close to the action, and supplied with a bag of child-sized props, children help the actors tell the story of what happens to Brother and Sister Bear throughout the course of a year.
(Photo Credit: Blake Echols/Imagination Stage)
Children become a part of the action from the very first moments of the performance when Sister Bear, played by Megan Dominy, invites them to help wake up Brother Bear, played by Tyler Herman. Once both Bears are awake, they discover their springtime environment by watching a butterfly visit a flower held by each child and exploring a waterfall created by children holding long pieces of blue cloth. I did not think my daughter's wonder at being part of creating a waterfall could be topped, but then the Bears entered into a summer night, created by a large blue sheet suspended low from the ceiling. Stars projected onto the summer sky in a darkened room to create the illusion of a peaceful evening in a meadow. Children were invited to use small flashlights to create fireflies twinkling in the darkened room. Then, they were invited to lie beneath the starts to hear Brother Bear tell a story acted out with shadow puppets in the sky. Moving into fall, children helped to create a lake out of the same fabric that served as the sky, while autumn leaves swirled atop the lake and Brother Bear chases a fish. Next came winter, and after Brother Bear finally caught his elusive fish and the Bears ice skated on the frozen lake, the children covered the Bears with blankets to make them comfortable during their hibernation.
(Photo Credit: Blake Echols/Imagination Stage)
Children from about one years old to five years old were in the audience at the performance I attended and all ages appeared to enjoy the show equally. Some children were a little frightened of the bears at times, but a little noise is tolerated at shows for children this young, so it did not disrupt the show. Even though most children sat on the floor very close to the actors, some seats farther away from the perofrmance area were available for children who are more comfortable with a little distance between themselves and the action. My two-year-old daughter was delighted throughout the entire performance. When the show ended, I asked her to tell me her favorite part. Her emphatic response was "Being in it!"
If you go, seating is general admission on the floor. With circular seating arrangements, there are no bad seats. While most caregivers join children on the floor, there are chairs available are for grown-ups and children who prefer not to be so close to the bears. B rother Bear runs 45 minutes. Tickets for everyone one and up are $10-$12. Lap tickets for children under one year are $5. Imagination Stage is located in downtown Bethesda, within walking distance of the Bethesda metro. There is garage parking adjacent to Imagination Stage, which is free on weekends.
Since Imagination Stage is purely focused on children, they have a couple of unique features to make the entire experience of going to a live performance enjoyable for young children. There is an interactive "bubble wall" that allows children to jump to pop floating bubbles. The wall could keep kids busy for hours and certainly will keep yours occupied if you need to wait a few minutes for Wake Up, Brother Bear to begin. Imagination Stage also has a small café in the lobby. If you think your children might need a few minutes to warm up to a new environment before the show begins, you can plan to arrive early to grab a light breakfast or snack before the show.
If you cannot make the show, but want to expose your children to the story of Brother Bear, a highly interactive Wake Up, Brother Bear! app is available. The app allows children to make stars twinkle, make a fish jump out of a lake, and put blankets on the Bears. The app also offers the option to read to your child or listen to the original Sister Bear, Julia Krebs Patterson, read the story.
Wake Up, Brother Bear! runs through February 3. There are 10:30 and 11:45 shows every Tuesday through Sunday.
Come out of hibernation and visit Brother Bear!
Photos and tickets provided courtsey of Imagination Stage