Big fun for kids of all ages

For its 15th anniversary, the Philadelphia International Theater Festival for Children has a new name, a new feature and new dates.

The new name - the Philadelphia International Children's Festival - reflects the festival's expansion to encompass not only theater, but music, film and other performing arts for children.

The new feature is a first-ever collaboration with the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema (see "Editor's Pick for This Issue") that will feature five films for, about and by young people.

The collaboration is possible because of the festival's new dates: Wednesday, May 5, through Sunday, May 9, which means that families need no longer choose between the Children's Festival and Memorial Day down the shore.

Much that is familiar remains - like the PlayWorks and StageWorks craft and storytelling areas, and the street cafe for a break between events.

Here's the complete list of festival mainstage performances and films:

    Canada's Theatre Beyond Words brings the Potato People back to town for "Surviving the Great Outdoors!" at this year's festival.

  • THE POTATO PEOPLE: Canada's Theatre Beyond Words makes its fourth festival appearance with "Surviving the Great Outdoors!" Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m.; Thursday at noon. Zellerbach Theatre, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St.

  • "THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES": France's Grain de Malice troupe puts an unusual twist on this classic story by using found objects to tell the tale. Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and noon; Thursday at noon; Saturday and Sunday at noon and 2 p.m. Space 221, Annenberg Center.

  • "BEING BRAVE IN THE DARK": A little boy's favorite stuffed toy becomes a guide to the scary world under the bed in this production from Theater Gnaffel of the Netherlands. Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m.; Thursday at noon; Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Harold Prince Theatre, Annenberg Center.

  • "THE STAR KEEPER": Canada's Theater L'Oeil uses more than 25 puppets and no words to tell the story of a friendly worm who helps an ailing star. Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m.; Thursday at noon; Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Iron Gate Theatre, 3700 Chestnut St.

  • BLACK UMFOLOSI: The eight-man African a cappella choral/dance ensemble has been called "Zimbabwe's answer to Ladysmith Black Mambazo." Wednesday and Friday at noon; Thursday at 10 a.m.; Saturday at noon and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Zellerbach Theatre, Annenberg Center.

  • GAYLE LaJOYE: The veteran clown, who has been compared to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Red Skelton, gives a performance that is "Too Foolish for Words." Wednesday and Friday at noon; Thursday at 10 a.m.; Saturday at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon and 4 p.m. Harold Prince Theatre, Annenberg Center.

  • SALLY ROGERS: The multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter invites you to sing along with her and learn about folk music, musical instruments and being kind to the Earth and one another. Wednesday and Friday, at noon; Thursday at 10 a.m.; Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Iron Gate Theatre.

  • "THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS": This live-action musical film based on Kenneth Grahame's beloved book is a Monty Python reunion of sorts, with writer/director Terry Jones as Toad, Eric Idle as Rat, Michael Palin as the Sun and John Cleese as Toad's lawyer. Wednesday at noon and Sunday at 11 a.m. International House, 3701 Chestnut St.

  • "ODE TO SCHROEDER": Margaret Leng Tan, the diva of the toy piano, accompanies the film "Works of Calder" with the score John Cage wrote for it and plays classical favorites and other tunes on toy piano, other toy instruments and everyday objects such as tuna fish cans and teapots. Thursday and Friday at noon. International House.

  • KIDS FILM TRIO: Philadelphia's Big Picture Alliance presents three short films about and by young people: "The Seekers," a film set in the distant future after civilization has been destroyed in a great war; "Khmer Street," a film about a good kid going bad and the beautiful young girl he falls in love with; and "I.D.," an animated short about identity by nine Philadelphia high schoolers. Saturday at noon. International House.

Tickets for the mainstage performaces are $9 for the first show; for additional shows, patrons may purchase as many tickets as they purchased for the first show for $5 each. Tickets for the films are $7 in advance, $7.50 at the door. Group discounts are available. For info or tickets, call 898-3900.

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Originally published on April 29, 1999