Children’s Festival transforms Annenberg Center into fun zone

The 27th annual Philadelphia International Children’s Festival takes over the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts from Thursday, April 7, to Saturday, April 9, with a fiesta that is open to children of all ages, but is geared toward ages 3 to 12.

Performances will take place in the three Annenberg Center theatres, and the festival will also feature a FUN ZONE on the outdoor plaza, offering face painting, arts and crafts, jugglers, musical ensembles and dance groups from the Philadelphia community.

Edward M. Epstein, associate director of community engagement and resource development at the Annenberg Center, says many of this year’s performers have connections to school curriculum, such the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble and ScrapArtsMusic, a musical act that uses instruments made out of recycled materials.

Epstein says he sent a presentation about Harlem history to area teachers, including information about how the Dance Theatre of Harlem sprung out of ballet, jazz dance and other dance forms. And, he explains: “With ScrapArtsMusic, there are ecological themes having to do with physics and sound, as well as music and art.”

Nicole Cook, director of marketing and communications at the Annenberg Center, says other festival events connect with University themes, the surrounding community and the city.

On Saturday, environmental educator Jack Golden stars as the comic and cool character Brook Rivers in the show, “Water, Water Everywhere: A Splashy Look at Our Most Precious Resource,” which ties in with Penn’s Year of Water. The fun starts at 2 p.m.

At noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Thirza Defoe, a Native American artist, integrates singing, storytelling, and hoop and eagle dancing in a performance that links with the One Book, One Philadelphia selection, “War Dances” by Sherman Alexie.

“We try to present work that provokes thought and really requires our audience to examine current issues,” Cook says. “I think you’ll see a lot of that here in this programming.”

Other festival performers include stage, film and television actor John Lithgow, who is performing songs from his Grammy-nominated album, “The Sunny Side of the Street.”

Thursday and Friday events, including the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble, are sold out, but tickets are still available for the Saturday performances of ScrapArtsMusic, Thirza Defoe and Jack Golden. Lithgow performs on Saturday only. Tickets are $10 to $15 and include access to the FUN ZONE.

Enjoy three different shows, access to the FUN ZONE and a free lunch on Saturday for only $25.

For a complete list of Philadelphia International Children’s Festival events, visit www.annenbergcenter.org/tickets/childfest.php.

Originally published on March 24, 2011