Live theatre is for absolutely everyone- a sentiment made abundantly clear at the opening of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic at Emerald City’s Little Theatre. Long known for producing stellar shows for all ages, Emerald City’s newest facility (gorgeously outfitted by The Land Of Nod) is the nation’s first for theatergoers from birth to four. It’s an exceptional concept, and this show is a knockout.

After all, what usually compels parents to keep their kiddos at home during theatrical events? It’s generally the fear of an overactive child and the stigma of being That Mom (or Dad or Grandparent or Nanny). Then there doesn't ever seem like a good age for a kid’s first “real” theatre experience, and boom-  you've suddenly got a teenager living in one of the nation’s best artistic cities who’s never seen live theatre.

Emerald City Theater Chicago(photo credit Tom McGrath)

But at the Little Theatre, anything goes. Instead of being hushed, kids are encouraged to explore, join in, and enjoy an experience all their own. During our viewing of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, we saw toddlers answer characters’ questions, suggest helpful prop ideas and- yes- even hug an actor or two. (Not one person even blinked.) The adorable set is part of the fun too, with each small group or family getting their own picnic blanket (on soft pretend grass!) and a basket of props for use during the performance. My girls were absolutely thrilled to be “part of the show” and loved helping further the action with flowers, bottles of honey, pretend food to contribute to the feast, and handheld butterflies. (We’re still talking about getting to dance like fireflies with miniature flashlights.)

The premise of the show is simple and sweet: Mama Bear (charmingly played by Jeff Award-winning actress Amanda Hartley) invites you to help her and her son Buddy (expertly puppeteered by Cameron Turner) prepare for their picnic in the woods. A mix of problem-solving and stage magic await each theatregoer during this 45-minute performance, created by Producing Artistic Director Ernie Nolan.

emerald city theater chicago

A full sensory (and gentle!) experience makes The Teddy Bear’s Picnic a hit for the youngest patrons of the arts- and their culturally savvy parents.

Tickets are $14 for ages one and up; $7 for under one

The Little Theatre is a shoe-free performance space- don’t forget socks for you and your little one!

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