With such a wealth of good theater in the Puget Sound, local parents could be forgiven if they take it for granted that we have specialized children’s theater companies. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that one of them, Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT), is among the 20 largest regional theater companies in the U.S. and presents specially commissioned pieces by Pulitzer prize-winning writers.
It would seem too much to ask for a theater of this caliber to turn its attention to interactive performances for toddlers, but Seattle Children’s Theatre does this, too.
Currently running for the four-and-under set is Dot & Ziggy, a 40-minute play developed by SCT Artistic Director Linda Hartzell. Eschewing the auditorium for the open space of the lobby, the action in Dot & Ziggy takes place in and around the colored mats where the audience sits on the floor.
Composed of the best elements of pro-social, educational children’s television, Dot & Ziggy takes two new friends through pint-sized adventures. Using simple words and lots of repetition, the nonlinear story of their developing friendship explores shapes, movement, and song. Whenever the two friends get stuck, a wise spider appears, admonishing them, “Share.”
Rather than full animal costumes, the actors are dressed in clothing evocative of their characters — a ladybug and a skunk. Just as children’s games will alternately involve acting out a story and using stuffed animals as proxies, Dot and Ziggy (or their toy counterparts) fly, run, roll, and jump.
Following across stick and stone to visit each others' homes, they learn to share space and toys. With boxes full of scarves, they discover that Ziggy likes things out while Dot likes things in, and they recruit audience members to place the scarves accordingly. Of course, when you’re putting things out and in, the hokey pokey is inevitable. Afterwards, children are invited to meet the actors and pet their toy characters.
A play for toddlers is by necessity going to be simple and a little silly, but SCT brings professionalism to every audience. With crisp timing and clear voices, Molli Corcoran (Dot) and Ian Lindsay (Ziggy) gave their animal characters childlike guilelessness without any of the stiffness or camp that often accompanies performances for children. During the performance, both actors made eye contact with every child in the audience, and made sure every willing child got to touch one of the props.
Regardless of the quality of the performance, with children this age, there is always the question of whether the time might have been better spent in free play. If your child spends all week in day care, Dot & Ziggy’s structure will probably feel familiar to them. For children who spend their days with a parent or nanny, the “carpet time” activities of singing along and answering questions as a group will be a genuine learning experience in addition to entertainment.
If you go ...
When: Dot & Ziggy performs daily except Mondays until February 24. Show times vary by day, but all performances start between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. On February 9 at 2 p.m. the performance will be ASL interpreted.
Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at 201 Thomas Street, in the Seattle Center, across from the Fisher Pavilion.
Ages: The show is recommended for ages 4 and under.
Tickets: Tickets are $20 for both children and adults and may be purchased by calling SCT’s Ticket Office at 206-441-3322 or online. Children under 12 months are free. Discounts for groups of 10 or more (1 free ticket and no processing fees) are available by calling the box office.
Parking: The closest garage is in the Pacific Science Center. Rates vary depending on events at Seattle Center. Other pay lots in the neighborhood have similar pricing ($5-$20). If your time at Seattle Center is limited to the play, 2 hours will be enough. Street parking may be the most affordable parking option, but is hard to come by. Consider taking the bus — look online to plan your route.
About the author: Gemma Alexander is a Seattle-based writer with two daughters.