Kennedy Center presents virtual series ‘Performances for Young Audiences’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Performances for Young Audiences (Part 1)

Parents and teachers are looking for digital content to educate and entertain their kids.

So, the Kennedy Center is streaming “Performances for Young Audiences,” a subscription series of six virtual productions rolling out now through June 27.

“We had a full season of shows for young people, but with the pandemic, we pivoted to digital,” Director of Education Programs & Productions David Kilpatrick told WTOP. “It’s exciting that a number of shows we were going to present in the family theater, which is normally a 320-seat space, we worked with those artists to record new versions.”

The first virtual production, “Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story” by Glass Half Full Theatre in Austin, Texas, just launched for streaming last week on March 1.

“It’s so timely because it’s a solo show, it’s one actor, she plays a 10-year-old girl in the basement of her home telling a story within a story,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s the classic ‘Cinderella’ story in Spanish and English using found-object puppetry. The Fairy Godmother is an upside-down tea kettle. … It’s a really timely story for right now.”

The show is completely accessible for viewers with special needs.

“There’s all these access options around the video,” Kilpatrick said. “You have an American Sign Language version, there’s captioning available, there’s audio description, there’s a tip sheet for making the video sensory friendly for kids on the Autism spectrum or who might need other mitigations. We’ve been very thoughtful.”

The second production is “Leonardo and Sam: The Terrible Monster and the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World, Respectively” by Mo Willems on March 15.

“That one is with an Emmy Award-winning company in Chicago called Manual Cinema,” Kilpatrick said. “They’re telling our Kennedy Center Education Artist in Residence Mo Willems’ tale of a not-so-scary monster. That’s a world premiere.”

The third production will be “Music for Young Audiences” on April 5.

“Falu is known for her indie Hindi sound-blending traditions of Indian classical and folk music with Western rock and electronic styles,” Kilpatrick said. “I’ve seen the first cut of what she and her band have put together. It’s really remarkable and we’re excited.”

The fourth piece will be “Super Cello: Hero Practice” on April 19.

“That’s Scotty Rowell and Atlanta’s Teller Productions creating animation with National Symphony Orchestra cellist David Teie … to tell the story of an extraordinary musician discovering the hidden power of music,” Kilpatrick said.

The fifth production features singer Maimouna Youssef on May 3.

“She’s Baltimore born, she’s D.C. raised, she’s a Grammy nominated singer,” Kilpatrick said. “This performance specifically for young people blends gospel, jazz, soul, hip hop for a pretty inspiring musical experience.”

The series wraps with Mo Willems’ “In the MOment: A Drawing Dance” on May 24.

“Ephrat Asherie Dance in New York City is our co-collaborator,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s a show really about making art out of small things. … I’ve seen some of the early mock-ups on that, and it’s looking really exciting.”

So far, 1,200 schools have signed up to stream the current production for free, including lesson plans and study guide materials for students to try at home.

“All of them for schools are on-demand streaming once you register through June 27, so lots of time to watch at each school’s own pace,” Kilpatrick said. “Public schools and private schools have given kids iPads or other devices for school at home … so we were really careful with how we put these works up so they’d work on kids’ devices.”

Families can also subscribe for $60 per household to receive all six productions.

Register for a subscription here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Performances for Young Audiences (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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