A personal reflection from Artistic Director Lauren Jost
This last year, there were a lot of demands on our attention and advocacy. Storms, wildfires, national health insurance policy, local justice reform. There were a lot of times I would ask myself, of all the places I can be putting my focus and time, is baby theater really the most pressing? The most necessary for creating the world I believe our children deserve?
But every time I sit in a room where children are watching one of our tiny plays for tiny people, or in a library where a Free Family Art Day is taking place, I see the relaxation and joy, not just on the faces of the children at our events, but on the faces of their parents and caregivers as well.
There is value in joy. There is value in beauty. There is value in creating a space for families to bond and share stories and create memories together.
Most importantly, there is value in providing spaces for children to develop empathy, community, and connection to one another and the world around them. That investment is one that will not just make the world better this year, in these spaces, but well into the future when we hand off this world to the next generation.
Thank you to all our artists who poured their creativity into Spellbound projects this year. Thank you to our staff and Board of Directors who tireless work to create new ways for our work to reach our whole community. Thank you to the donors and sponsors who provide the space, funds, and support for our work to develop. Thank you for believing in babies' and toddlers' and preschoolers' right to art, and for giving your time, talents, and energy to bring these programs to life. I am deeply honored to share this work with you.
Best wishes for a beautiful, creative, and joyful 2018!
Last month we traveled to Miami Theater Center to premier our newest production of Wink, an imaginative story about dreams, inspired by the classic poem, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod." A team of four Spellbound artists and a crew of local designers and carpenters and technicians put together our biggest show yet!
In addition to three public performances for families, we presented Wink for over 1000 students during our 4 school performances!
We got reviews back from one of the kindergarten classes who came to see the show. Can you spot which parts of the show they were excited about?
Thank you so much to all the students who came to see the show! We couldn't have asked for a better audience.
You'll be able to check out Wink on March 24th at Symphony Space in Manhattan, and next year in venues across the country!
Changing seasons provide a great excuse to get outside and play, using fresh eyes to see the new texture and colors around us. Here are a couple of ideas for outdoor storytelling and creative play to do with your young ones:
Sound Jars (for ages 0-3)
Fill a jar with natural materials from outside. If you have more than one jar, fill each with a different material. Hold up your sound jar to your child's ear and ask them to listen to the sounds those materials make. What does it sound like? Which materials can make the sound of wind? The sound of thunder? The sound of an animal? Tell a story about the sounds that you hear.
Fairy Houses and Bug Forts (for ages 3-5)
Choose some natural materials that you can stick together, such as sticks, bark, grass, and leaves. Find a quiet corner where a fairy or bug might like to live. Together with your child, create a structure that your fairy or bug might like to move into. Adults can help with tying grasses or connecting walls, and children can experiment with balancing different elements or sorting materials. Tell a story together about who might move into your house and what they might do inside.
Find your own inspiration and follow your child's lead. Remember, there is no wrong way to play!
A story for every season
Tickets are available now for the 2017-18 Spellbound performance season at the Old Stone House. Our sixth season features the return of our most popular "pop-up" storytelling and puppetry performances, as well as "Babywild", an interactive performance made just for 6-18 month olds.
Join us all year long at the Old Stone House for Spellbound's award-winning performances for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and see what makes Spellbound a one-of-a-kind family experience.
If you are purchasing tickets to more than one show, consider getting a Spellbound Season Pass - For only $10, you get 20% off all shows, all season.
A big adventure for little explorers
An interactive performance just for babies ages 6-18 months
February 23, 24, 25
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Please
Catbear, a lost toy, travels through the subways of New York as he searches for his way home.
Up & Down Again
A construction site comes to life with interactive cranes, tools, and diggers used to construct a surprising project.
Follow the life cycle of an apple seed through four seasons with songs, poetry, and sign language for very young children.
Book of Hours
A larger than life book leads children through familiar daily events using favorite nursery rhymes and songs to tell the story.
The Last Coin
A adventure story of light, shadows, and kindness.
Under the Tree
A young girl escapes her noisy life and takes us on an immersive exploration of a magical world in her own backyard.
This coming weekend, at the annual conference for the American Alliance of Theater and Education, Spellbound will be awarded with the 2017 Winifred Ward Zeta Phi Eta Outstanding New Children's Theater Company Award.
We will be celebrating this award through the end of July and into August by sharing some love from thinkers and makers in the field about what makes "baby theater" and Spellbound's work so important. This campaign will be across our social media platforms and I encourage you to share/like these posts as they come up to boost their reach to our community. Make sure you're following Spellbound on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.
Here is a preview of the speech that Spellbound's Outreach Coordinator, Emily Baldwin, will be presenting on behalf of the artists, board, and staff of Spellbound:
Babies are amazing.
We learn more, grow more, and discover more about ourselves and our world in the first five years than we do at any other point in our lives.
Very young children are more open than we are as adults, more perceptive than we are, more creative, and they do not sit still out of politeness or convention. They demand our full presence, our full creativity, our full selves. They deserve artwork that honors their ingenuity, and a space for art that is designed with their needs and incredible abilities in mind.
It is an honor to create work for this most discerning and sophisticated of audiences. We celebrate the babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who have inspired Spellbound’s first five years of performance and educational programs. We have learned, grown, and discovered by following their lead and looking at the world around us with fresh and inquisitive eyes.
Thank you to the babies for showing us a world full of possibilities and wonder. Thank you to our artists, staff, and board for constantly raising the bar of quality for this underserved audience.
Thank you to the AATE award selection committee for recognizing the importance of this audience and honoring us with this award.
It's winter! There hasn't been much snow on the ground, so here are some fun, sensory activities to bring the winter play indoors. And join us January 28 at the Park Slope Library for our Free Family Art Day exploring snowy stories and sensory play.
Materials: Watercolor paper, watercolor paints, brushes, white crayon, salt
Tabletop Snow Forts
Materials: Paper, water, white dissolving packing peanuts (“magic noodles”), aluminum foil, glue
Materials: Water bottle, clear glue, silver glitter, snow sequins, hot glue or Krazy Glue, paint, paint brushes, pipe cleaners
Dusk ~ Uri Shulevitz
The Snowy Day ~ Ezra Jack Keats
First Snow ~ Peter McCarty
Penguin on Vacation ~ Salina Yoon
Tracks in the Snow ~ Wong Herbert Lee
No Two Alike ~ Keith Baker
Best in Snow ~ April Pulley Sayre
The Mitten ~ Jan Brett
When It Snows ~ Richard Collingridge
Happy New Year from all of us at Spellbound Theatre!
As we begin 2017, I've been thinking a lot about the power of stories in our lives. Stories are uniquely human - no other animal (that we know of) tells stories. The act of storytelling helps us make meaning and connections with the world around us. Stories allow us to see things from another person's point of view, and imagine ourselves in a world different than the one around us.
Our audiences, ages 0-5, are still young enough that they are largely unaware of the tumultuous arguments happening in the adult world, arguments about health care, national security, climate change, and social justice. But we have seen what happens in the adult world when we are no longer able to see the world from others' points of view, when we are lack the imagination to see the world as different than our immediate experience.
At Spellbound, we believe that the young children in our audiences must be equipped so that when they enter the complex and contentious adult world, they are armed with critical thinking, creativity, and empathy. We are more committed than ever to providing storytelling experiences that invite children to stretch their imaginations, listen to and share with one another, and provide multiple points of view on how the world might be.
Storytelling is crucial to our ability to respond to a complex world, to make sense of diverse experiences and perspectives, and to see the potential for magic, transformation, and connection all around us. In the spirit of New Year's, I offer these three commitments for the children in our lives:
May 2017 be full of stories, surprise, and discovery! Your little ones are getting bigger and bigger each day, and it is an honor to be a part of their growth.
Happy New Year!
and the artists, staff, and Board of Spellbound Theatre
By Susanna Brock
Thanksgiving is around the corner and people are gathering resources to celebrate with their communities. I was born and raised in Sweden and I came to America and New York City in 2008 so this will be my 9th Thanksgiving.
I have had the chance to celebrate this big day in many different ways here in the city. I have been invited to friends’ parents’ houses, I have been alone in my studio apartment, celebrated with American friends who were making their first own Turkey and I have organized my own immigrant friends Thanksgiving where there were no Americans to be found.
The thing I learned early on was that Thanksgiving is about the FOOD! And oh the food I have tasted! It reminds me of Christmas celebration in Sweden which is our biggest food holiday. I saw the care and pride that went into making the Thanksgiving meal and that gave me a deeper understanding for the holiday.
At Spellbound we are excited and committed to multi-sensory play and learning. The senses that can be hard to include in a regular class or performance is taste and smell although we have known to include apple eating in more than one of our shows… So what a wonderful opportunity to explore sensory play around food this Thanksgiving weekend!
Babies - Painting with Food
Let your baby go wild with some different food paints on a big, big piece of paper placed on the floor. Join your little one and make sure to smell and taste the food as you go along. If you don’t have time to make your own paint just use some store bought baby puré!
Toddlers - Fruit & Veggie Prints
Cut a vegetable or fruit in half, dip it in paint and stamp on a large paper that you put on the floor or the table. Easy! Explore what different shapes different produce make and how different densities and textures within the vegetable or fruit will create interesting prints.
Produce to try; broccoli, apple, orange, radish, celery, rutabaga, bell pepper and pumpkin.
Make your own edible, non/toxic fingerpaint and use for the stamps. That way you can just wash off the fruit and veggies afterwards and use them in your Thanksgiving cooking!
Pre-schoolers - Make your own vegetable family
Bring your little one to the store or farmer’s market and pick out some interesting and fun looking root vegetables or pumpkins. Imagine them as characters with eyes and see if you can find enough to represent your whole family. At home use a sharpie to draw eyes and mouth or use ready made eye stickers. Maybe use toothpicks for legs or arms or hair. Make one for each person or animal in your family.
Now it’s time to play!
Last week Spellbound launched the process of creating a brand new show as part of the New Victory Theater LabWorks Residency. This was the first of three weeks over 2016-17 in which Sepllbound artists are given the studio space and mentorship needed to create quality work for young audiences.
The project we embarked on, "The World Inside Me", is a celebration of how awesome the human body can be. We spent the week talking about how our bodies grow and change between ages 0 and 5, how children think and feel about their bodies, and devising theatrical and musical ways to celebrate the amazing things our bodies can do, from bones to brain circuits to lungs to blood.
Spellbound artists were joined by Dave Brown of Brown Paper Boats, an expert in devising theater for young audience, and Lina Chambers, a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin studying ensemble devised theater. Together, we played and explored how to theatricalize abstract ideas about the human body in a way that would be exciting and relevant for very young children.
It can take two years or more to fully develop an original professional theater production, whether that is for young children or adults. Often the resources for this type of project are not readily available for shows for young children. We are appreciative of the commitment of our artists and the support of the New Victory and Dave Brown as we embark on this exciting new project, and we look forward to sharing our work as the project continues!
In the meantime, we are busy getting the final rehearsal process underway for our previous New Victory Theater LabWorks project, "Ears, Nose, and Tail", which we began in 2014 and which will premier for Brooklyn audiences in February 2017. Check out http://Spellbound theatre.com/ears-nose-and-tail for more details!
A note from Spellbound's Artistic Director, Lauren Jost
This month, Spellbound presents "Before We Grew" at the Old Stone House. We will share four performances for general public audiences of families with children ages 0-5, and four performances for families with children on the autism spectrum. Our show tells the story of a young boy, Henrik, who lived a long, long time ago in what is now Brooklyn. We explore his world through puppetry, tactile props that children can feel and hold, and gentle sound and music.
On the surface, very young children and children on the autism spectrum may seem very different, but there are many similarities in the way that these children understand the world around them. These traits include:
At the core of all of Spellbound's creative work is a commitment to engaging children where they are, regardless of age or developmental level, and to creating worlds and stories that use all of our available senses. We have always brought this aesthetic to our work for very young audiences and, two years ago, began the process of researching and developing an adaptation of our process and aesthetic for children on the autism spectrum and with sensory processing special needs. Thanks to a 2014-15 National Endowment for the Arts grant through the Historic House Trust, we were given the time and resources to adapt our work for this new audience in the production, "Before We Grew". We discovered that we were already creating work in a way that was on track with the best practices for theatre for children on the autism spectrum, and we were able to focus on how to make the experience as rich and impactful as possible for families with special needs.
We are so excited to share this production with young children and their families and look forward to expanding our community of theatre-lovers to new families in Brooklyn and beyond. The show is now in its second public run, and will soon begin touring to special needs classrooms around the New York and New Jersey metro area. Many thanks to the Old Stone House and Historic House Trust for continuing to support and host this project. You can learn more about "Before We Grew" here or purchase tickets here.
If you have questions about Spellbound's programs or work, please contact Artistic Director Lauren Jost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren Jost, Director