New Double Feature From The Rep Brings Live Children's Theater Home to Your Kids

When the pandemic hit, professional theatre companies across St. Louis pressed pause on in-person performances but kept their creativity and their cameras rolling with streaming shows that engaged and entertained audiences of all ages wherever they watched.

Today, as we begin to navigate our new normal, patrons are rushing back to local theaters, ready to lose themselves in the stories told on stage. While the seats of performing arts centers have started to fill back up, many school auditoriums and gyms, which played host to plays, musicals, and concerts, have yet to see the return of live theatre.

Thanks to the dedication and resiliency of The Rep’s Imaginary Theatre Company (ITC) touring ensemble, kids have VIP access to two of the hottest shows in town, allowing them to experience the magic of the stage in the classroom or in the comfort of home. Be sure to catch the ITC Virtual Theatre Showcase double feature of Tomás and the Library Lady and Puss in Boots now through April 15.

Carrying on a cherished tradition during COVID

For almost 20 years, ITC has been committed to bringing the finest in theatre for young audiences to schools across the Midwest through its use of literature, folk tales, fairy tales, and new adaptations of classic works. Prior to the pandemic, their performances reached 20,000 students each season.

ITC refused to let COVID stand in the way of immersing kids in the wonder of live theatre. In 2021, ITC began filming Tomás and the Library Lady and Puss in Boots on The Rep stage, and released the productions to the world this month.

“It’s so important to continue to give children access to any kind of creative outlet, whether they’re doing the art themselves or just being in a room where they can see art that’s been skillfully produced,” said Adena Varner, Director of Learning and Community Engagement for The Rep.

“It really does help them stay connected to their imagination and be in community with each other, and I think that our children miss that. Whether they’re watching a performance on screen in the classroom or watching with a parent, they’re still able to explore different stories and use their imagination to travel to far-off places. Even though we aren’t able to perform live like we normally would, we still want to serve.”

Children and adults alike will be charmed by each of the ITC productions. Adapted from the book by Pat Mora, Tomás and the Library Lady follows the journey of Tomás whose family of migrant workers heads north to Iowa to find work. Looking for a place to fit in, Tomás befriends a librarian who opens a magical new world for him through books and ignites his passion for learning. Puss in Boots is a reimagining of the beloved children’s story that follows a clever cat on a mission to take her family from the poorhouse to a princely castle.

“The universal themes of survival, friendship, and beating the odds are woven into the storytelling quite beautifully,” Varner remarked. “These two productions are designed to literally meet youth and their families where they are, and we are so proud we could adapt our season to provide this dual streaming experience to our community.”

The cost to stream both productions is $20. For an additional $10, families and educators can also access the digital curriculum package featuring behind-the-scenes Q&As with the casts, study guides, science experiments, and other online activities. As Varner explained, “The curriculum makes the experience a little more interactive and really adds an element of learning for our younger audience members.”

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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