Preschool-aged kids should have some extra bounce at this year’s Surrey International Children’s Festival, which gets going Thursday (May 25) and continues until Saturday.
The event’s “Be Moved!” theme for 2017 includes two shows geared toward children aged 18 months to five years.
“We know that early childhood years build the foundation for life,” explained Marnie Perrin, artistic director of the City of Surrey-backed festival. “Why not introduce children to beautiful experiences as early as possible to instill magic and possibility?”
The seven “featured” shows during the 13th edition of the festival, held at Surrey Arts Centre and Bear Creek Park, require a ticket for admission.
Among them, Grug and The Rainbow, a whimsical theatre/puppet production from Windmill Theatre of Australia, and Paper Playground, an interactive dance number created by B.C.-based company Foolish Operations Ensemble, are designed for kids who haven’t yet graduated to Grade 1, more or less.
Dancing, drawing and music are featured in Paper Playground, a piece created by choreographer Julie Label and commissioned by the festival. The show offers viewers a chance to experience a special moment of discovery through the eyes of a child.
Children are being taken seriously as theatre-goers, Perrin explained, and new works are being created for them.
“We’re really excited about the preschool programming we are bringing this year,” Perrin told the Now-Leader.
“Providing opportunities for our youngest citizens to engage in the arts is very rewarding.”
Windmill Theatre first brought its Grug character to the festival in 2013, and the show was a hit.
“From feedback we received, families are still enjoying the Grug experience, especially with the Grug books that were sold to accompany the performances,” Perrin said. “We’re thrilled to have Grug back again this year.”
Perrin also noted the arrival in Surrey of theatre/puppet show Sangja, brought to the stage by companies based in South Korea and Canada (Artstage San and Pangaea Arts). In the festival guide, it’s billed as a “brilliant blend of physical theatre and breathtaking puppetry with an extraordinary musical score,” involving a Korean-born, Canadian-adopted boy and his search for identity.
”One of the creators of the story, who the performance was based on, will be available for Q&A after performances – a very special opportunity,” Perrin said.
Circus is always popular with audiences, she said, and this year the troupe from Quebec (Les Parfaits Inconnus, in an all-ages show) incorporates musicians.
“We always try to program amazing shows from all across Canada and the world, and 2017 promises to be an excellent year,” Perrin added.
Other ticketed shows this year include the band Le Groupe Swing (French-Canadian “folktronica” music), Mistatim (“a beautiful story about friendship, bravery and a horse named Mistatim) and Snow White/Blanc Neige (“a spontaneous and hilarious re-telling of a familiar tale where children get to perform a major role”).
Festival site admission is free, along with selected activities. Single show tickets range from $7 to $10, and a Saturday Festival Pass is priced at $12. An arts activity wristband, valid for three days and free for adults who are supervising children, is $7 for kids.
Free activities include a storytelling tent, a Nature Play area, a Heritage Hangout, Garden Labyrinth, Music Makers zone and an Amazing Cardboard Kingdom presented by Surrey-based Royal Canadian Theatre Company.
Activities requiring a wristband include the World Rhythm Dance Party (with DJ Su Comandante and Ndidi Cascade), Big Top Circus Fun, clay arts, a “Cut Move Snap” animation/media arts area and the popular Nylon Zoo storytelling tent.
New this year, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, is the Maple Leaf Dance Hall, on Saturday, May 27. The event promises “a good ol’ time at a throwback to a traditional barn dance, complete with Indigenous and Metis jigging, square dancing and, for an international twist, African dance and bhangra.”
The four stages for the festival’s ticketed shows are named Studio, Leap Frog, Main and Lily Pad. For show times, tickets and more details, visit surrey.ca/childrensfestival.