Weekend Highlights

Published December 12, 2012
Going Places

The Frye Art Museum Offers New Theatre and Dance Performance for Children

by Isabel Sanden
seattle child article photo
Mary Margaret Moore performs at the Frye Art Museum.

seattle child article photo
Kids enjoy the String performance at the Frye Art Museum.
Photos by Isabel Sanden.

The Frye Art Museum’s youth outreach program is gaining quite a reputation.  As a long line formed outside the Frye, I overheard many moms discussing with enthusiasm previous events they had attended with their children, and I was thankful we had arrived a bit early. 

The Frye has added a brand new program to their line-up of educational outreach events for children ages 2 to 6: String: A Theatre and Dance Performance for Children.  

String, performed by actor Mary Margaret Moore, is “object theatre.”  As Moore explains at the end of the performance, object theatre is a beautiful type of theater for young children. It tells a story through the manipulation of an object using action, emotion and sound.  Moore’s String made for a profound theatrical experience.

Young children have an incredible capacity for understanding body language and facial expressions.  They learn by watching.  Moore explains, “The slow, thoughtful pace of this type of performance caters to children’s natural learning capabilities.”  

Moore has created a beautiful and complex story that fascinates and draws the audience in, taking advantage of our own natural curiosity.  Using movement and interaction with a few simple objects, she held the audience captive.   

The performance begins with Moore walking behind a white cloth screen.  She holds a long string.  On the small square stage in front of the screen lies a huge bag tied with a large red rope. 

One’s curiosity is immediately piqued and throughout the audience I could hear whispers from kids asking what was in the bag and what the string was for.  Their questions would soon be answered. 

Moore moved silently across the stage, flinging and flicking the long string into the air.  The string moved gracefully in long arcs, and then bent and dropped.  The audience, at first giddy with oohs and aahs, fell silent.  So strange to experience the death of a string just by watching it fall, and see the expression on Moore’s face.

Rebirth … a new string is found.  The large rope tied to the giant bag became the new object.  “Mama, what’s in the bag, what’s in the bag?” my 3-year-old daughter questioned. 

The large rope, heavy and thick, was a dramatic comparison to the light movements of the first string.  The bag rocked as she furled the giant rope, and finally untied the package.  Inside, more bags were tied with string. 

Hmmm, which package to open?  “Open the big one,” directed children from the front rows.  She delicately made a choice and pulled the bag from the others. 

This time a short string tied the bag, and inside was a boot, with laces of course.  As the story continued we were completely engaged.  Enthralled by not only the sheer emotion with which Moore told the story, but also with amazed fascination at how beautiful simple objects could become. 

In this modern world where we have determined that so many things have only one purpose, it was refreshing and inspiring to witness the many uses she created for her simple items.  A string becomes a flying airplane.  A bag becomes the missing other boot.  A balloon becomes a rocket.  And a last present becomes a pillow, and something to look forward to…tomorrow.

Moore’s innate creativity incorporates the simplest of objects to teach patience, to show curiosity and disappointment, and maybe most important of all for young children, the concept of cause and effect.

String at the Frye makes a lovely morning activity, and before heading home you can enjoy lunch in their café, or stop by the gift shop, which has a nice selection of gifts and books to remember your visit. 

String is a beautiful performance and something not to miss if you have little ones.

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If You Go...

Where: Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle. Parking is free and easy to access but fills up quickly so plan to arrive on the early side if you want to get a spot.  The Frye parking lot is located on the corner of Cherry Street and Terry Street. 

Cost: Tickets for String are only $5, and can be purchased online through the Frye website.

When: The program occurs monthly on a Friday at 11:15 a.m.; the upcoming performance dates are: Dec. 14, Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 22, April 26 and May 24.

Contact: 206-622-9250; http://fryemuseum.org/program/string_theatre.