Whimsical Worlds: Open Eye Figure Theatre and Steppingstone Theatre Invite You to Experience

Whimsical Worlds is a new show.  No, it’s a new production.  That’s not right either.  It’s a new experience that you won’t want to miss. Open Eye Figure Theatre and Steppingstone Theatre have partnered together to bring you a completely enchanting encounter. 
Here is Michelle Pett,  the Interim Executive Director at SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development to tell us more about this unique event.

What is Whimsical Worlds?  
Whimsical Worlds is a performance adventure for children of all ages and the young at heart.  We are presenting seven all-ages shows over five weeks in two theatres.  People can hopscotch back and forth across the Mississippi River to catch shows in both venues.  It’s a great opportunity for children, families and grandparents to have high quality arts experiences at an accessible price.   Whimsical Worlds is the first collaboration between SteppingStone and Open Eye Figure Theatre.
How did it come about?  Who’s idea was it and what are your hopes for the series?
The collaboration came about because I have a longstanding relationship with Open Eye.  I currently serve on their Board of Directors and am a past Board President for the company.  I knew that Sue Haas was intent on building a children’s performance series for the spring of 2016.  In my role as Interim ED at SteppingStone, I wanted to introduce my audience to the breadth of quality family-friendly performing arts experiences available in the Twin Cities.  I approached Sue about expanding her series to involve both organizations.  The series gives SteppingStone the opportunity to bring fabulous local shows like Open Eye’s The Learning Fairy and SossyMechanics’ Swingin’ in the Ring for limited engagements on our stage.

What is the history of Steppingstone Theater? 
SteppingStone is 29 years old this year (that means next year we hit the big 3-0!)  We began our organizational life by providing in-school theatre residencies to St. Paul schools.  We started producing plays with all-youth casts shortly thereafter.  We moved from the Landmark Center to our own building on Victoria Street in 2007.  SteppingStone lives in a 110 year old Methodist church that has been renovated into a 426 seat theatre with a proscenium stage; plus studio and classroom space on the lower level.
What is the history of Open Eye Figure Theatre? 
Open Eye was founded by Susan Haas and Michael Sommers in 2000.  Michael, a professor at the University of Minnesota, is an internationally recognized theatre artist specializing in figure theatre.  Figure theatre includes a range of puppetry but is really about telling stories by animating the inanimate.  Sue as Artistic Producing Director is the lifeblood of Open Eye — she curates all the programming, cultivating and engaging artists from the national scene to bring their work to their theatre (and to the Twin Cities).  They were early members of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune ensemble, connected closely to local artists like Kevin Kling.  They really are jewels in the Twin Cities’ artist crown.
Open Eye is nationally recognized for bringing a visual feast of evocative figure theater to the stage. The company’s whimsical yet profound work surprises and delights whether experienced in the company’s historic jewel box theater in Minneapolis or in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities with the Driveway Tour. From experimental object works to puppet shows in backyards to community pageants to miniature spectacles, Open Eye consistently creates a unique, contagious exchange between artists and audiences.
What is your partnership? 

Steppingstone and Open Eye are artistic collaborators, producing partners, and co-presenters for the Whimsical Worlds series.

Sossy Mechanics, Whimsical Worlds

What has been the most rewarding experience? 
This deep collaboration is unique in the performing arts world.  It’s also a very ambitious undertaking to present a roster of shows across two stages during a limited amount of time.  Performing arts organizations and artists collaborate all the time — that’s in the very nature of our shared art form.  But a deep collaboration where marketing and producing decisions are made collectively is very unusual.  It only comes about because of the relationship we’ve built over 20 years.  You really have to trust people personally to put your organization’s reputation and pocketbook on the line.  I believe this is new ground not just for us and our organizations, but may help point a way toward a collaborative model for other artists & organizations to follow.
Are there any funny stories you would like to share? 
You can buy fairy ears of all shapes and sizes online.  Who knew?
What is the best way to be a participate in Whimsical Worlds?
Your journey starts at either Open Eye or Steppingstone’s website — all the info for shows in both venues are on each site.  Pick a roster of shows that appeal to you on both sides of the river, book your tickets and let the games begin.  The entire series is filled with whimsy, beauty and knockout performances.  And come to the Pillow Fort in Steppingstone’s lobby — it’s a cutting edge arts installation AND a childlike performance space all in one.  You simply won’t see this anywhere else.

Through this series, Steppingstone is reaching deeply into the arts community to feature both established and emerging artists.  A good example is the Pillow Fort we are building in the Steppingstone lobby.  Designed by Liz Schachterle, an emerging designer and puppeteer, the fort has a tiny stage, upholstered low couches and a universe of pillows; children enter through a little door, then welcome adults into the fort through the big door.  The point is that adults are being invited to enter our childrens’ world and see an arts experience through their eyes.  Fort performances include shadow puppetry, marionettes and beat boxing on a rotating schedule on Friday and Saturday mornings (plus every morning during Spring Break the first week of April).

Run down of the shows are as follows

April 1 – May 7 at SteppingStone Theatre and Open Eye Figure Theatre

At SteppingStone

Story Time in the Pillow Fort
April 2 – May 7  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 3+

  • Little Lu: A World Within
    Created by Adriana Rimpel and Liz Schachterle, this poetic shadow puppet show tells the story of a little girl who is given a magical key that unlocks more than she ever expected. Watch a trailer!
  • Big Baby Beats
    Terrell Woods (A.K.A. Carnage The Executioner) takes youth on a unique, interactive musical journey through the world of beat box/vocal percussion.
  • Fanciful Flights
    Frolic with a menagerie of marionettes with acclaimed puppeteer Kurt Hunter.
  • Readers’ Theatre
    There’s nothing better than a good book…unless it’s a craft inspired by a good book. Teaching artist Atim Opoka will read to you, then lead craft-time in the fort.

The Learning Fairy
April 16 – 23  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 4+
You can also see The Learning Fairy during our annual fundraiser, “Spring Fling” on April 15!

Swingin’ in the Ring (it’s Trick Boxing for Families) 
April 29 – May 7  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 4+

At Open Eye Figure Theatre

The Land of Clowns
April 1 – 3  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 6+
My Life As a Fairytale
April 8 – 10  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 4+

The Joshua Show
April 15 – 17  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 4+

Mop Dog
April 22 – 24  Get tickets
Recommended for ages 4+

Prices for SteppingStone shows:

APR 1 — MAY 7* Audio Described Performance
** ASL Interpreted Performance
*** Pay What You Can Performance
Ticket Prices:Adults/Students & Seniors:$16.00/$12.00

Members: $9.00


Visit brownpapertickets.com to purchase tickets for all performances.

Open Eye is committed to economic accessibility to the arts. Pay-as-Able tickets are available for any performance online or at the door for any show that is not sold out.


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