"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" has been captivating young imaginations for almost 50 years. Now, Eric Carle's masterpiece of children's literature is jumping off the page and onto the stage of the Winningstad Theater.
Oregon Children's Theater is bringing "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and four other Eric Carle stories to life using 75 colorful, larger-than-life puppets. The show is suitable for all ages, and runs for approximately 60 minutes without an intermission. There will be a sensory friendly performance on May 5.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
March 31 - May 20, 2018
Families are encouraged to come to the Winningstad early for fun activities and interactive exhibits with the puppets, and stay after the show to get their playbills signed and take photos with the cast.
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show" was created by Jonathan Rockefeller in 2015, and celebrated its 1000th performance in January 2018. The show has toured world-wide, including in New York, Dubai, and London's West End. "All of us grew up with these books," said Rockefeller. "Eric Carle is a rock star when it comes to the literary world. What was inspiring was how to get children into the theater."
Sensory Friendly Performance
Oregon Children's Theater and the producers of the show are including a one-time sensory-friendly performance for families that would benefit from a more relaxed theater-going experience.
Marcella Crowson, associate artistic director of Oregon Children's Theater, explained some of the specific alterations to the "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show" on May 5:
- There will only be 50 to 100 audience members rather than the regular 300+.
- Before and during the performance, there will be areas set up in the lobby - a reading area, coloring station, and a quiet corner - as alternative way to engage in the stories featured in the production, as well as areas inside the theater where tablets and other electronic devices are allowed.
- The house lights will only be partially dimmed so that the seating area is not in complete darkness.
- Loud noises, and bright or sudden lighting effects will be softened or eliminated.
- Audience members will have the freedom to move around the theater as needed.
- Patrons are invited to bring comfort or fidget items into the theater.
- Patrons will be offered a visual guide in advance of the production that will prepare them for what to expect during the show.
The changes to the production will not affect its plot or content.
Crowson said that the goal of sensory friendly theater is to "introduce kids to theater in a way that prioritizes their experience of imaginative storytelling, rather than learning the rules or protocol of seeing a play in a way that squashes their excitement and engagement."
Oregon Children's Theater's decision to incorporate sensory friendly programming comes as an increasing number of sports and entertainment organizations across the country - including AMC Theaters, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, Broadway Theater, and even NASCAR - develop similar sensory friendly events for their guests.
"For children's theater, this represents a huge opportunity and responsibility to tell young people that there is a world of art for them," said Crowson.
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show" is the first production for which Oregon Children's Theater has created a sensory friendly show. If the May 5 show is successful, said Crowson, Oregon Children's Theater hopes to expand sensory friendly programming in the future.