A Bunch of Carrots, a Box of Rice, some Tasty Cheese, a Big Firm Pear and a Can of Peas... sounds like a simple list, right? Well not for Vincent in the beloved Imagination Library book Chimpanzees for Tea! which came to life for thousands of Erie County children and families this past weekend thanks to United Way and the Erie Playhouse's PLAYtime partnership.
What is PLAYtime?
Launched in 2015, PLAYtime uses the arts as a vehicle to make a meaningful connection for local children with the stories from United Way's Imagination Library for Erie County. Through the use of song, drama, movement and visual arts, books delivered home come alive and create purposeful shared reading experiences.
The Erie Playhouse, thanks to United Way funding support, has grown this literacy program which is now present in 20 child centers and school classrooms, many at community schools.
Over the course of three years, the same child will have had 144 shared reading experiences with Imagination Library stories using PLAYtime curriculum lessons. In the past 8 years more than 2,000 children in at-risk settings have been nurtured by PLAYtime, listening, attending, questioning and retelling these tales at an increase success rate of 95%.
Teachers and facilitators have also grown in their storytelling connections by participating in PLAYtime. Facilitators of PLAYtime immerse themselves as partners in the schools and children centers they are connected to, guest appearing at their family game nights, carnivals, red carpet events, and even facilitating at graduations!
The Erie Playhouse PLAYtime crew is led by facilitator Trish Yates and was the team who brought the original adaptation of Chimpanzees for Tea! to the LECOM Stage April 28, 29 and 30. School performances were held on Friday for more than 1,500 students and for the general public on Saturday and Sunday.
The charming 45 minute event included an original adaptation by PLAYtime staff with special permission from author/illustrator Jo Empson...bringing the story to the stage for the very first time!
Chimpanzees for Tea! starts with a simple question: “How are you going to play your day?," a question every child asks each morning as they begin their day. The story begins with a journey to the past, as Vincent, now a father, reflects back on how he “played his day” with the help of his imagination. The story then takes us to a special memory in Vincent’s childhood where a trip to the “shops” for mom turns into a magical adventure filled with an imagination circus, a game of hide and seek, squawking chimpanzees, tapping mice and echoing parrots, all played out colorfully onstage. Why, at times, Vincent’s imagination seems so real, audience members might find themselves onstage with all of the rest of the fantastical characters…IMAGINE THAT!
In addition to United Way and the Imagination Library, additional sponsors making performances possible include American Tinning and Galvanizing Company, Erie Insurance, John R. and Mary Gail Baldwin and the Northwest Charitable Foundation, Inc.