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Where IS the green sheep?

Published on: June 01, 2007

It’s a simple question, and it’s one that will have toddlers and preschoolers riveted throughout the short play based on Mem Fox and Judy Horacek’s picture book, Where is the Green Sheep? The Windmill Performing Arts production is currently playing almost daily at The Children’s Museum, Seattle, as part of a collaboration with Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Audiences enter a room painted with a bright mural of happy sheep cavorting in a pasture, and sit inside a square, fenced “sheep pen.” Signs painted with words – sun, moon, near, far, brave, scared – are positioned along the inside of the fence and actors (the engaging, energetic Michaela Koerner, Connor Toms and stage manager Sarah Mixson) move from word to word on the outside of the fence, acting out each one with cut-out sheep puppets. Periodically, to the delight of kids in the audience, they wonder about the location of the green sheep. Local musician Matt Johnson provides live sound effects from a booth stocked with instruments of every kind, from a rain stick to a Buddhist singing bowl.

Everything about this production is thoughtfully geared toward very young audiences. Ambient music is gentle and not too loud. The script is simple and repetitious in the way that toddlers appreciate (a sheep is shot out of a cannon twice, for no other apparent reason than that it’s so much fun). Kids learn words describing feelings and actions, colors and spatial concepts via vivid, humorous illustrations. There is a lot to look at, and the story moves quickly enough to keep short attention spans engaged without overstimulation. To stave off the wigglies, kids are invited to stand up, dance and interact with the actors, who do a good job of improvising based on kids’ comments.

The production ends with a short workshop in which kids practice simple acting techniques, learn basic theater terms and get a chance to wander around the sheep pen, touching the puppets and trying out Johnson’s instruments. Handouts are available to help parents play creatively with their kids after the show.

The children in the audience were transfixed by the performance, watching the action intently, shouting out suggestions to the actors and laughing out loud at the inventive props. It’s an ideal way to introduce young kids to the theater in a format that won’t vex them with the requirement that they sit still and listen, something that tots and tykes aren’t developmentally prepared for. As with all SCT and TCM endeavors, production values are top-notch. Adults will appreciate the quality of the cartoonlike props and puppets, and the way the actors engage their audience without a hint of condescension. The show is for young kids, but grownups won’t be bored.

Don’t be late, however. You won’t be able to get into the theater once the show has begun, and given its length, you would miss a lot in five minutes, anyway.

The Green Sheep plays Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.; Saturdays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.; and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. through Aug. 31. It’s best for ages 1-4. Tickets are $15 for museum members and $17.50 for non-members, and include admission to The Children’s Museum, Seattle. For ticket information, visit Seattle Children’s Theatre or The Children’s Museum.

If you go

Admission to The Children’s Museum, Seattle, is included as part of the ticket price. If you haven’t been in awhile, stop by the improved Discovery Bay area for tots. The play space was expanded into what was a narrow, underused hallway, and now includes a woodland-themed water play area and soft climbing toys and mats for very young kids.

Cog City, an exhibit where kids can shoot balls through a series of tubes, has been spiffed up and simplified. A new water machine is located against the back wall. Made of brushed metal, it shoots water out of tubes and nozzles at the push of inviting red buttons.

A quiet area for story time and reading boasts a fantasy mural and a tree trunk in the center of the room, surrounded by pillows. Parents can find parenting resources here while the kids chill out, sit in a beautifully painted throne or climb into a wooden fort.

The museum now offers an expanded series of story times and other activities, called The Family Connection Series. On Messy Mondays (first Monday of the month, 10-11 a.m.), ages 2-5 get their hands dirty with clay, finger paint and other materials. Terrific Twos Day (second Tuesdays, 10-11 a.m.), kids ages 2-3 do hands-on projects. On Wet-n-Wild Wednesdays (third Wednesdays, 10-11 a.m.), ages 1-3 play with water in Discovery Bay. Feelings Fridays (fourth Fridays, 10-11 a.m.) help kids ages 3-5 learn about their emotions with stories, songs and projects. A story time is scheduled for Mondays and Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

The Family Connection Series is free with admission. For more information, visit The Children's Museum.

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