A New Adventure
Friday, November 9, 2007
It's the return of an old friend of theatergoers, as Adventure Theatre reopens Saturday after a two-year reconstruction project. Now 55 years old, the pioneering children's theater is back home in the Arcade at Glen Echo Park after producing shows in a corner of the park's Spanish Ballroom during the renovation. Many now-grown Washingtonians saw their first play at Adventure Theatre. The renovation retains the charm they remember while adding updates that will allow for more ambitious productions.
"We completely gutted the space and entirely rebuilt it," says Michael Bobbitt, Adventure Theatre's new artistic director. "The shape of the actual stage is surprisingly different, but it still maintains the intimacy. All the kids can still see each other watching the show. The stage comes right up to the first row of seats, so the actors aren't far away; they're right there."
That sense of close comfort is a hallmark of the venue, key to helping children enjoy their first theater experiences. The theater decided to maintain the "cuddle factor" by using benches rather than individual seats so parents can stay close to their kids. Those with memories of aching lower backs will be happy to learn that the new benches have backrests.
The first show in the new space is a musical version of "The Secret Garden." Bobbitt says it's grander than past Adventure Theatre shows.
"We're moving to a much more professional model now," he says. "Because of the new lighting and sound systems, we can actually do bigger, flashier, more technically advanced productions. This show has lots of puppets, some great original choreography, really creative use of projections, and the final scene is really quite epic and sweeping in scope."
Running about an hour, "The Secret Garden" is recommended for age 6 and older, Bobbitt says. The story is a fantasy about loss and the healing power of love, as a lonely orphan girl mends hearts and spirits while reviving a lovely hidden garden in the English countryside. Most shows will be suitable for children as young as 4.
The technical improvements also will enhance the troupe's classes and provide opportunities for more community outreach, as well as increased artistic collaboration, he says.
Bobbitt, who has directed shows at Adventure Theatre as well as at other area theaters, says he is aware of the special place the Glen Echo theater holds in the hearts of many theatergoers. "Everywhere I go, people tell me how much they remember about the theater, and they had their first class there or saw their first show here," he says. "We have cultivated a whole community of theater lovers who started out here."
Adventure Theatre Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo Events: Free reopening festivities Saturday 12:30 to 4, including crafts, storytelling and tours. "The Secret Garden" runs Saturday through Dec. 16. Showtimes are Saturdays and Sundays at 11 and 1:30 (no show this Saturday at 11); also some weekdays, Sunday and Friday evening shows. Contact:301-634-2270. http:/