Although it celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, the Seattle International Children's Festival
still feels a bit like a well-kept secret. Performers are often
remarkable but little-known, and you can see them in relatively small
theaters. Getting day-of tickets isn't that big of a deal. The crowds
aren't overwhelming. It all feels very "old, relaxed Seattle."
The festival's name is probably partially responsible. Adults without
kids -- or those not in the know -- might find themselves unable to get
past the C-word. Entertainment for kids is flashy, boring and
color-coordinated, right? For the past couple of years, SICF has
reached out to a more adult crowd with evening performances called
Seattle International Nights, but it's telling that the shows remain
the same even as the audience's drink of choice changes from apple
juice to vodka martinis.
This year's festival, "globalicious," once again offers a challenging
mix of world music, sophisticated clowning and theater. SICF tweaked
its ticketing and attendance policies this year to make shows more
accessible, and has added interesting new works to the lineup.
For the first time at the festival, families with very young children
can attend a show created especially for them. Le Théâtre de Quartier
from Québec developed "GlouGlou" (French for "glug-glug") based on
current knowledge of early childhood learning. The 45-minute show is
narrated in a quiet voice and follows a small child as he experiences a
series of firsts: first smells and sounds, first snuggle in a parent's
arms, first friendship. Toddlers can get a first taste of live theater,
in English or French, and the 12 shows (Seattle only) are scheduled at
tot-friendly midmorning and post-lunch times.
American juggler Thomas Arthur presents the world premiere of his solo
show "Luminous Edge," which was commissioned by SICF. Arthur's
phenomenal juggling is accompanied by music, projected imagery, and
narration that touches on science, mathematics and mythology. The show
is best for ages 7 and older, and SICF staffer Jená Cane points out
that Arthur has a local following, and families who want to see him
perform shouldn't wait long to buy tickets.
File this under "weird and worthwhile." "Share This Place," another of
SICF's world-premiere commissions, sets Britta Johnson's stop-action
animation of insects to live music by singer-songwriter Mirah and the
cello/percussion/oud/accordion quartet Spectratone International. The
insects, created by Johnson out of discarded household bits and pieces,
conduct onscreen lives based on the work of the 19th-century French
entomologist J. Henri Fabre, who wrote exacting accounts of his insect
encounters. Bring your bug-mad kids ages 7 and older and see what they
make of it.
Party with SICF at Seattle's Family Day on Saturday, May 19, or
Tacoma's single day of performances on May 21. In Seattle, kids can
shake their booties with mom and dad at the 12:30 p.m. Global Dance
Party, with music by gospel/jazz/funk band H'Sao from Chad and Mexican
rock 'n' rollers Las Patita de Perro. Kids can hang out at discovery
centers, where they can do arts and crafts and listen to live music,
and check out Vera Project's new digs on the Seattle Center grounds.
Performers at the Tacoma event include Brazil's Circo Teatro Udi Grudi,
who demonstrate in "Ovo" ("Egg") that an instrument can be made out of
just about anything; Les Parfaits Inconnus from Québec, who somehow
manage to combine clowning with rock 'n' roll; and Chinese Theatre
Works, who use colorful shadow puppets to retell the 16th-century
Chinese story of the prankster Sun Wu Kung in "The Birth of the Monkey
King." Broadway is closed to traffic between Ninth and 11th streets, as
festival-goers enjoy activities and performances by Tacoma School of
the Arts students.
This year, Cane urges parents to play hooky with their kids and attend
a weekday school performance. Homeschoolers, parents of younger kids
and shameless slackers can take advantage of the greater number of
shows on the Seattle schedule during the week and avoid the festival's
most crowded day, Saturday. To make attending multiple shows easier on
the wallet, ticket prices have also been restructured: The more tickets
you buy, the less each show costs.
SICF received a $225,000 grant from the Allen Foundation in 2006, and
the money is earmarked for future marketing campaigns and educational
activities. Enjoy the festival's laid-back vibe now, because once SICF
begins to make use of that money, it might not be the area's best-kept
entertainment secret any longer.
Kris Collingridge is ParentMap's Out and About Editor. She attends as many SICF shows as she can, every year.
- The Seattle International Children's Festival runs May 14-19 (Seattle) and May 21 (Tacoma).
- Performances are held at venues at Seattle Center in Seattle, and at the Pantages and Rialto theaters in Tacoma.
- Opening Night Celebration, May 14 at 7 p.m., Seattle: $18-$20.
- All weekday, school-hour shows (Seattle and Tacoma) $9.50-$10.
- Saturday Family Day, May 19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Seattle: $10-$15; two-to-five show packages $7-$45.
- For tickets and more information, visit www.seattleinternational.org or call 206-325-6500.