The EQT Children’s Theater Festival returns live and in-person Saturday and Sunday to Pittsburgh’s Cultural District for the first time since 2019, following online iterations of the event during the pandemic.
Now in its 36th year, the festival fosters children’s imaginations through professional theater performances from around the world. This year’s featured arts groups and performers hail from France, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
Offerings are curated in various genres to appeal to different age ranges and interests, said Pamela Komar, director of theater, music and youth programming for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which presents the festival.
“We want diverse voices on the stage and different people telling the stories they want to tell,” she said. “It’s a bit like putting a puzzle together.”
This year’s performances “are maybe not as cohesive as usual from a curatorial standpoint” due to changes necessitated by the pandemic, she said. “We’re making good on our cancellations and making sure artists we had promised a spot earlier have a chance to perform.”
Not only does the festival provide families a way to have an adventure close to home, she said, it also has other benefits for young audience members.
Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
“Doodle POP!” will invite the audience into an ocean adventure created live on stage as part of the 2022 EQT Children’s Theater Festival in Pittsburgh.
“So often, a positive arts experience as a young person will influence future choices when they’re grown up and buying their own tickets,” she said. “With exposure to the arts, we can inspire kids to explore their own interest in the arts, through participation and performing, and to inspire creative problem-solving.”
That can lead to some valuable communication on the family level, Komar said.
“These performances are a good way of sparking conversation: ‘What did you see? How did you experience it?’” she said. “It can inspire kids to open up in a way they might not otherwise.”
Presenting theater from around the world also teaches young people about different cultures and ways to communicate, she said.
Journeys through time, space, culture
The following featured performances with take place at venues in downtown Pittsburgh. Details on times, dates and locations are available at trustarts.org.
• “Starshine,” by Jumping Jack Theater at Byham Theatre — A sensory-enriched journey through the galaxy in which audience members gaze at constellations, dance with asteroids, hear the soothing sounds of space, and even lend a helping hand so that every star can shine its brightest. This small-group experience takes place in a smaller, private room within the Byham Theater. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
• “Flutter,” by Treehouse Shakers at the Trust Arts Education Center — Explores the seasons through a journey of visuals, sounds, objects, some language and play, with original music. Babies and toddlers will have the freedom to crawl, walk and move within the space, to investigate hands-on textures amid the other features of the program. Recommended for ages 6-18 months and their caregivers.
• “Grimmz Fairy Tales,” by Experiential Theater and Children’s Theater of Charlotte at Byham Theater — The story finds Jay and Will Grimmz, the hip-hop, fable, story-dance-pop sensations, presenting a concert in their hometown. Recommended for ages 6-13.
• “Won’Ma Afrika,” by Cirque Kalabante at Byham Theater — Daring acrobats perform to the pulsating rhythm of the djembes of Guinea. The show embodies the strength, agility and joy of life found in African youth. Recommended for all ages.
• “Doodle POP!,” by Brush Theatre at Point Park University Pittsburgh Playhouse — The mischievous Doodle POP! duo invites the audience into an exciting ocean-world adventure that they imagine and create on stage. With live sound effects, animation and theatrical imagination, the show is mostly visual, with limited words. The theater will be darkened at times. Recommended for ages 3-7.
• “PSS PSS,” by Compagnia Baccala at Pittsburgh Playhouse — A breathtaking duet of mishaps and acrobatics inspired by the physical comedy of silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin. “Pss Pss” is the winner of 15 international prizes, including the Cirque Du Soleil prize. This show is played without traditional words. The theater will be darkened at times, and there are elements of surprise. Recommended for ages 8 to adult.
• “Mr. Messado’s School of Magic for the Young and Young at Heart,” by Liberty Magic/Pittsburgh Cultural Trust at Liberty Magic — Joshua Messado’s fresh take on the age-old art of prestidigitation, this 60-minute interactive spectacular features a combination of stunning magic and clean comedy. Whether it be shouting the magic words from the comfort of your seats or by coming up on stage to be trained as a magical assistant, audience members will participate throughout the show. The family-friendly Sunday matinee takes place in Liberty Magic’s intimate speakeasy setting, with 67 seats in four rows. Recommended for ages 13 and older, although ages 6 and up are welcome.
The festival is also offering free virtual field trips through June 22.
Tickets for featured performances are $12 each. Some are expected to sell out in advance. To reserve, call 412-456-6666, go to trustarts.org or visit the Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave.