It’s a great time to be 1 to 5 years old in Montgomery County. Imagination Stage (IS) has created a show just for them. “Paper Dreams,” a new collaboration with Mons Dansa Dance Company from Barcelona, Spain, is on stage through April 9.
Written and directed by Claudia Moreso—with IS Associate Artistic Director Kathryn Chase Bryer directing the English version—the interactive production tells the story of two delightful creatures who live inside a wastepaper basket. The show’s premise is that mistakes can turn out to be great innovations. A cast of two carries the show.
“Paper Dreams” is part of My First Imagination Stage, an early development program that emphasizes and promotes “play” as being the “work” of kids. Live performances, workshops and classes offer fun and developmentally exciting experiences for very young children and accompanying adults. IS began focusing on the youngest theatergoers in 2010 with the world premiere of “Wake Up, Brother Bear!” “Paper Dreams” its first dance performance-based production.
Mons Dansa performed at IS two years ago as part of D.C.’s Euro Fest. “We loved their work, so we asked them if they would like to collaborate with us on a show for early childhood,” Bryer said. “They had never done a show for children that young and were very intrigued by this idea.”
As it turns out, this artistic partnership is a two-way street. “They had been working on a show called ‘Wabi Sabi’ for elementary school children and asked if we would come to Spain to work on it with them,” Bryer said. “We received a Theatre Communications Group grant last fall and went to Barcelona with our set/costume/lighting designer at the time, Zac Gilbert.”
In return, last April, Claudia Moreso, Mons Dansa’s director and choreographer, came to Bethesda with two dancers to further develop “Wabi Sabi.” “We taught the show to two American dancers that were hired by IS…and changed the name to ‘Paper Dreams’ to appeal to our audience,” said Bryer. Now, the show is being performed both in Spain and Maryland.
This is not the first international effort for the Imagination Stage team. My First Imagination Stage has welcomed guest artists from Italy, Great Britain and Germany.
Wondering what an “interactive” production means, exactly? “We give the audience a piece of paper when they enter the theater and the children use this piece of paper throughout the show with the guidance of the (performers) to become many different things,” Bryer said. In addition, at the show’s conclusion, children are invited up onstage to play with some of the ideas presented during the show.”
In an attempt to give parents a peek into the show’s energy, without giving too much away, the director offered one of her favorite highlights: “I love the way video and movement interact in this show. There is one moment in particular when the actresses blow on a long row of papers that have been set down on the floor in front of the screen. They blow on the pages, and there is a domino effect as we watch the pages gracefully fall down. Then, in the final moment, a video of a flock of birds (with sound) appears on the screen. It is breathtaking—a perfect marriage of movement, video and props coming together.”
Another behind-the-scenes insight into the show is that Sara Herrera, a long-time teacher and choreographer at IS and in the metropolitan area, will perform on stage for the first time. Herrara is the artistic director and founder of ArasDance, the Petworth Dance series and the Petworth Arts Collaborative, and has performed with GALA Hispanic Theatre. “I am so thrilled to be able to work with [Sara] in this new and exciting way,” shared an admiring Bryer.
The performance also stars Anna Lynch, who returns to IS where she has understudied in two other shows. “Anna has appeared in several of our early childhood shows, and it is lovely to have her wonderful acting talent and skill at working with small children on our stage,” said Bryer.
Mons Dansa dance company has been creating artful dance works for kids using choreography as a channel for communication, expression, amusement and education since 1998. Imagination Stage was founded in 1979 with a mission to inspire creativity through theatre and arts education programs that nurture, challenge and empower young people of all abilities. It offers year-round professional theatre for young audiences and classes in creative drama/acting, musical theatre, dance and filmmaking for ages 1 to 18.
“Paper Dreams” is on the Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, through April 9. Shows begin at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For tickets, $14, call 301-280-1660 or visit www.imaginationstage.org.