With a plethora of theatres and acting companies, the Twin Cities is a vibrant setting for stagecraft.
That’s all well and fine except as busy caretakers of 1 or 2 or handfuls of children, what good does it do us? We are so busy with our kids that we can’t even read the paper, let alone plan to get to the theatre.
I want to suggest a different perspective. While not everything is child-friendly, there are plenty of theatre experiences that are suitable for families, so why not make enjoying the theatre a family affair?
You know some of our favorites: Children’s Theatre Company, Stages Theatre, Steppingstone Theatre, Old Gem Theater. There are theatre companies that aren’t known for being children-friendly but do feature a child-inspired show once or twice throughout the season. But today, I want to tell you about a different theatre company.
Open Window Theatre is a fairly new and “swanky” (their word) black box theatre to hit the Minneapolis stage scene. A black box theatre is a simple space that is square room with black walls (or in the case of OWT, black curtains) and a flat floor. Any large space can be transformed into a stage: including open warehouses or other empty commercial buildings. OWT does just that and makes its home in the Metropolis Minneapolis building on Chestnut Street. Though not far from the heart of the Minneapolis theatre scene, you find OWT off the beaten path which makes it even more enduring.
Jeremy and Sarah Stanbary founded Open Window Theatre in 2011 as a non-profit organization with the mission to provide “EVERYONE–the average, the not-so-average, and the connoisseur alike– to enjoy great plays and great art and to breathe easy while you do so.” (taken from their website) As a parent I appreciate their seven points of their misison statement.
1. We believe that theater should not only entertain, but should also educate and inspire.
2. We believe that good art should challenge people to be better.
3. We believe that we don’t have to be vulgar in order to produce good theater and that some things are better left to the imagination.
4. We believe that good art – in exploring the problems of the human condition – should possess a redemptive value and should always respect the dignity of the human person.
5. We believe that religious faith is something to celebrate, not denigrate, through art.
6. We believe in creating an intimate theater-going experience that’s engaging and interactive.
7. We believe in producing top quality theater that’s accessible to everyone and won’t break your budget.
While OWT recommends their work to be appropriate for ages 4 and older, they believe everyone should be able to enjoy theatrical art and welcomes all ages. All that is asked of those attending is to be considerate of other theatre-goers and remove disruptions to the main lobby–whether a noisy child or an incessant cough, etc.
While the play I attended (see below) was not designed for children, I would be very comfortable bringing mine. Tender, innocent ears did not need to be covered due to excessive cursing (or any at all for that matter) or guileless eyes shielded from inappropriate images. Though the message was deep and maybe moved a bit slower for my fast-paced kids, I am sure both my 9 and 7 year olds would have enjoyed the show.
Currently, wrapping up it’s third season with The Lilies of the Field, OWT provided us with tickets to be able to do a review. I chose not to bring my children, but instead to have a date night with my husband. I figured all the money that we would have spent at the theatre could go toward a babysitter.
We both enjoyed the play immensely. The story is about a man named Homer who has just returned from the war (WWII?) and is passing through the southwest United States stopping whenever he can to work. He comes across a dilapitated farm that needs some major repair work and that’s when the story begins. The owners–who happen to be nuns–need his help, and he is their answer to prayer. Only he just was planning on stopping for the day and somehow got roped into a relationship with these four ladies. You watch how ultimately their relationship with God, each other, and the community is what they need to thrive.
Like I said, the message was a bit heady, but it’s not preachy at all. The Lilies of the Field is about real people and real life. There are hilarious parts. In two words: German nuns! There’s music. There is lots of movement. During one point of the show, I was watching a scene over my shoulder. The stage was in front of the audience. The audience was in the middle of the stage.
Approximately 80 chairs were set up in a diamond type shape and the set was at each corner of the diamond. At the top of the diamond was the dining table and at the bottom the car. One side held the desk and the other side held the ladder and a business sign. The play started with a strolling folk singer following by our narrator, Father Gomez, who greeted a portion of the audience with firm handshakes and the rest of us with a jolly greeting.
I laughed out loud during the show more than once (generally at the German nuns) and felt chills when the nuns sang a beautiful hymn to Homer as they encircled him. The Lilies of the Field is sensational. I recommend this show for anyone who needs a little hope or for anyone who needs a great story. Like I said, I would feel just fine bringing my children to it, but I think the best ages would be for those who are 3rd grade and older.
The Lilies of the Field is playing for two more weekends–this weekend and next weekend. So you need to hurry. Did I mention there were only 60 seats or so per show! And it’s only playing nine more times!
Tickets for The Lilies of the Field can be purchased at this link.
Open Window Theatre
(Metropolis Minneapolis Building)
1313 Chestnut Ave., Ste.#102
Minneapolis, MN 55403