What do you do with a hat with a hole in it? How can you have adventures when stuck inside the house? And what do you do when you have big feelings about not being able to see your friends and relatives?
Beginning Jan. 16, a diverse cast of Northwestern University students and alumni will present Imagine U episodes created for “Saturday Morning Live! at The National Theatre.” Exploring the theme of “Life Now,” the episodes feature stories, songs, movement and crafts created to help families cope creatively with the challenges of life during the pandemic.
Commissioned by the National Theatre in Washington,D.C., in celebration of the 40th anniversary of its flagship program for young audiences, the episodes will debut on the National Theatre D.C. Facebook Page and afterwards can be viewed on demand on the National Theatre’s YouTube Channel.
Imagine U founder Lynn Kelso said families need good online content now more than ever. “We are excited to offer the gift of story to our families in this most challenging of times, when we need imagination and wonder to be stimulated.”
“We’re so proud to be associated with the amazing programming at Northwestern,” said David Kitto, the National Theatre’s executive director. “It’s wonderful to collaborate and produce excellent programs for our community.
The programs are designed to give children and even adults strategies on how to cope. We aim to create substantive, meaningful programing that will entertain and soothe our audiences.”
Episodes launch at 8:30 a.m. CST and can be viewed anytime afterwards on the National Theatre D.C. YouTube Channel. The schedule is as follows:
- Jan. 16: “Life Now: The Book of How”
Host Alvin and his favorite four storytellers discover that change can be good and together they figure out ways to be better listeners. In this episode children will learn lots of things — from crazy dance moves, to how to make a paper craft — and even what to do if your hat has a hole in it! Special guests include essential workers and Spike, Alvin’s best furry friend.
- Jan. 30: “Life Now: Fun with Feelings”
Take a ride with the storytellers as they help Alvin understand strong feelings. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with lots of feelings, so together they discover the importance of listening to yourself and taking time to feel strong. In this episode, learn how to channel thoughts into a peaceful new craft and see how a quick chat with friends can remind you that you’re not alone in your feelings. Special guests include a lonely gray bird and Leo the Lion who talks to a friend about navigating big feelings.
- Feb. 13: “Life Now: What’s Your Story”
Join Alvin and the storytellers as they explore different types of stories. Children will see stories in family dances, cooking special dishes with grandmothers, and remembering birthday celebrations. They will also take a journey with a beloved hat and learn how to build a blank book ready to fill with new stories. Special guest storyteller E. Patrick Johnson will share why it’s important to lead your life with joy.
Imagine U’s “Life Now” creative director is Amanda Tanguay, a Chicago-based director and choreographer. The writing and performing team includes MFA directing candidate Alvin Chan and alumni Ryan Foreman (’20), Hannah Hakim (’20), Pablo David Laucerica (’20) and Mia Nevarez (’20). The music team is led by Ezri Claire Killeen (’21) and includes Cameron Miya (’22), Libby Hatton (’22) and Harrison Lewis (’23). Quinn Kelch (’18) is the video editor.
For over a decade, the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Performing Arts Center at Northwestern has presented Imagine U’s popular performance series. Created especially for families with young children, the productions are often adapted from or inspired by children’s literature and include sensory-friendly performances, pre-show workshops with the cast and a program with themed activities to take home.
Imagine U Storytime debuted in spring of 2020 as a response to the global pandemic. Each week, Northwestern theatre students, faculty and alumni share stories for young audiences on the Wirtz Center’s YouTube channel.