Imagine living in a world where everything was the color blue. Azure flowers greet you in the cobalt-colored grass under a turquoise sky. This is the world Inky and Pale have come to know, understand and accept until….they find something red.
(Cue the dramatic ‘Dun Dun Dun’ music!)
The Bethesda-based Imagination Stage will be bursting with color through Feb. 12 by putting on a production of the play “Blue” in their Christopher and Dana Reeve Studio Theatre. The show is a part of the My First Imagination Stage series dedicated to children between ages 1 to 5, offering an intimate and interactive element to the performances.
“I love this show,” said Director Kathryn Chase Bryer. “This is absolutely one of my favorite pieces that we have done. It’s really about tolerance and understanding and being open to what is different. Obviously, that is something that I feel like we sorely need right now in our world.
“I also think that this is something really important for kids to learn. (Kids) are making order of the world, and as they do that, they want everything to be the same and they want to be familiar with everything. One of the further stages of development is to have empathy and understanding that people can be different and it is not scary. It’s actually a good thing.”
The series does four shows each season, adding a new play to the repertoire every other year while putting another to sleep for a cycle. “Blue” was first performed in 2015 and this adaptation will feature familiar faces. Chase Bryer is returning as director along with Jack Novak who plays the role of Pale. “It is always fun to come back to something,” he said. “I had a really fun time with it the last time we did it, so it was fun jumping back in. …I really like doing work for young audiences in general and especially I enjoy doing those early childhood shows at Imagination Stage. It’s unlike any other theater that you get to do. The audience is so engaged in such a unique way.”
This incarnation of “Blue” marks Novak’s fourth time working for Imagination Stage’s early childhood shows. Pale is the more experienced and settled of the pair. Inky, played by Noah Schaefer, is more open. Pale is “the main force instructing Inky that everything has to be blue and anything that isn’t blue is bad,” Novak said. “…Pale is very disturbed by all the new colors and doesn’t want them to come in. He wants everything to be blue, while Inky is interested in the colors and starts to wonder why we can’t have more colors than just blue.”
Chase Bryer enjoys doing the early childhood shows because small children really don’t have a filter. “They will tell you what they think right out loud,” she said. “They don’t have the same kind of theater etiquette, if you will, that adults or even older kids have. We actually create this kind of theater so that that is OK and that is actually encouraged. We want them to talk to us. We want them to engage with the actors. We build the action of the shows very specifically so that is what is needed.”
She has seen where parents of small children understandably try to get their kids to behave during a show, but these performances are geared toward creating an environment to engage them. “I love the fact where we create a show where everything is possible and everything is acceptable,” she said. “That allows a child to call on their greatest capacity for curiosity.”
The show runs about 40 minutes and ends with a free play session where kids can come up on stage and play with actors and props from the show–including to help plant vegetables in the garden and draw on a chalkboard. “At the very, very end we do what we call a group ritual activity, which is where we all work to create something beautiful on stage together,” Chase Bryer said. “I’m not going to tell you what that is because I hope you come see it (and) because that would be giving away the end and I don’t want to give away the end.”
Sometimes parents think they can’t take their children under the age 5 to live theater. Chase Bryer believes the My First Imagination Stage shows can be a real eye-opener for parents when they see their children come away with a positive experience. “This is the kind of theater that makes it possible for your child to engage in an activity while they are watching a show,” she said. “Theater for very young is so very important. When you read the studies about child development, they say the most important period of a child’s development is ages 1 to 3. It doesn’t seem like it. They are so little and they are non-verbal. We don’t realize it. …I think this kind of experience for childhood is so unique and so important and the more that people know about it, the more I think we can create a society that has people who are understanding and tolerant of others.”
Performances of “Blue” begin at 10 and 11:15 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 12 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. Tickets are $14, with a $5 lap seat for children younger than 12 months. Tickets may be purchased online at www.imaginationstage.org, at the Imagination Stage box office or by calling 301-280-1660. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.