The SRT Children's Theatre is something else. Affordable, non-scary, modern interpretations of classic children's stories. The 45-minute shows are paced just right for young attention spans and the actors are adept at involving the young audience without allowing a melee. SRT says their shows are best for ages 3-10 (I'd say more like 3-8. 10-year-olds these days are mighty sophisticated.).
The productions take place in the dark wood-paneled, windowless, kinda dusty, historic building used by the Scottish Rite Masons since the late 1800's. Using backdrop screens that are over 100 years old. How cool is that? The first time we came here when she was 3, E was all, "Uh-uh. I am NOT going in there. No way," but after a few minutes of sitting in the lobby allowing her eyes to adjust to 120 years of darkness and staring at paintings of long dead old white men, she was all over it. My little goth in training.
They take out the center section of seats and put down mats for the children to use, which leaves plenty of room for you to find a seat nearby and still be able to see your child ("You go sit over with the other kids, love. I'll be here texting Daddy a to-do list and Facebooking."). Rules are simple and appropriate for the age group: keep your seat, don't talk over the actors, and if you get shushed, shush. Totally doable, shared in a humorous way ("take out a big stick of Bottom Glue and rub it alllll over your bottom. . .") and they even do a rules session for parents (the usual, involving cell phones and flash photography), which the kids think is hilarious. One thing to note - they do charge for every body that comes in the door, even if it's a tiny body. So when you are deciding which family members to bring along, be aware that you have to pay $4 for your infant (under 1 year). Kids over 1 are $8, and adults are $10.
Yesterday E and I (S was home napping) saw the SRT's production of Alice in Wonderland, which was exciting and snappy, even enjoyable for parents. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were played as a Bill and Ted-ish duo of teen goofiness, which may have gone over the heads of some of the kids, but still they laughed. The costumes were vivid, with just the right amount of glitz (Mad Hatter looked a bit pimpy, but I liked it), and they kept intact the perplexing madness so central to the original story while managing to make the show accessible to younger children. The trial scene in particular was fabulous, although the Red Queen's accent was confusing at times (I think she was going for Shrill, Slightly Insane Bavarian, but slipped in and out a bit). Show runs through March 28. Get tickets in advance because they tend to sell out.
Where else but in a town that celebrates pure wackiness could you experience outstanding kids' programming in such an intensely creepy location and love it? Perhaps I've been reading a few too many books with Knights Templar plots or subplots, but say "Masonic Lodge" to me and I'm checking over my shoulder for guys with swords and chalices. If you haven't been to a performance at the SRT (kid or adult), you have to go. Last year JP and I saw the White Ghost Shivers, who are strange enough in a regular venue, here, and he, having never been inside the lodge, looked at me sideways with (I'd like to think) new respect for my ability to find odd things to do . . . or it might have been fear, cause that particular WGS show, which included dancers, was W-E-I-R-D. It felt like we were in an episode of that old HBO show "Carnivale" - I kept expecting someone pale and smudged wearing tattered clothing to jump out and start bleeding from their eye sockets. Eeeesh. Awesome.