Seattle's Child

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Carmela Full of Wishes: Rooted in realism and childhood wonder

SCT presents colorful sets, memorable characters and a simple story

Seattle Children’s Theatre presents “Carmela Full of Wishes” based on the New York Times best selling book of the same name by author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson.

A charming, timeless picture book, “Carmela Full of Wishes” has been adapted into a play that is both rooted in realism and interested in allowing audiences to explore that childhood wonder, thanks in great part to the art direction, the writing and the wondrous work of this production’s lead, Maria Clara Ospina.


The titular character, Carmela, is the heart and soul of the story. The young girl wakes on her 7th birthday to all the possibilities that such a big, important day can bring. Her energy, optimism and imagination never waiver, and that translates off the stage thanks to Ospina who, despite not being a child herself, physically embodies Carmela’s spirit. She jumps around, pouts and rejoices the mundane things in all the right ways.

Young audience members will find immediate comradery in her performance. My 5-year-old was completely entranced with her relationship to her older brother and visibly relished in the sibling bickering. Carmela scooters around the stage, a favorite pastime in our house too. “Poop” is the punchline of one joke which garnered audience-wide giggles.

Carmela Full of Wishes: A Simple story

Carmela is finally old enough to accompany her brother on his daily errands, and after a bite of chocolate pancakes, she sets off on a small, but exciting journey. As Carmela interacts with the lively neighborhood she calls home, she finds a lonely dandelion, prompting a new obsession with making a very special wish and how the wish she finally decides to make could change her life. The wishes, portrayed with easy-to-comprehend dream sequences where the lighting changes and spotlights on Carmela, range from predictably juvenile – she imagines that her brother was nice to her or that she has all the desserts her heart desires – to ones that strike at the story’s deeper underlying message.

Heavy subject

Carmela’s father, Papi, has been away, working on getting his “papers in order” to return home to Carmela’s family. Though Carmela, her brother and her mother were all born in America, her father, mentioned throughout the production, though he is never seen, except in one such dream sequence, is struggling with the politics and bureaucracy of immigration. It may be a difficult, though constructive conversation with older children. It is done so subtly that my 5-year-old didn’t pick up on the tension and she wasn’t asking any questions in the car ride home.

Carmela Full of Wishes: Art direction

The stage itself is expertly crafted to reflect Carmela’s optimistic view of the world. Vibrant banners and colorful Lucha libre masks allude to her family’s cultural heritage. The little market is filled with real-life brands of cereals and snacks. Even though no major sets are changed out, Carmela’s journey never feels stale or stationary, moving along with the aid of the script and the audience’s imagination.

Recommended age

Though at no point in the play are there any flashing lights, loud noises or otherwise “scary” elements that could frighten young viewers, kids over the age of 5 are more likely to understand and enjoy the journey that Carmela takes. At a lean runtime of just 60 minutes, without an intermission, younger viewers can make it through most, if not all, of the production without the need for the cry room. Though having it there is certainly a huge sigh of relief. During our showing, only one very young toddler needed the reprieve of the hallway.

Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery

In conjunction with Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery, the SCT’s lobby will exhibit an art gallery of local Latinx artists. Nepantla, one of the only Latinx art galleries in the Pacific Northwest, will also host a block printed workshop before the 1:00 p.m. showing on February 25 and both afternoon performances on March 4. Inspired by the illustrations from the book, artist Eileen Jimenez will guide participants through stations to create colorful works of art.

Know before you go

• The show runs through March 12 with a variety of showtimes spanning the morning and evening
• ASL interpreted performance is Saturday, March 4 at 1:00 p.m..
• Audio described performance is Saturday, March 11 at 1:00 p.m..
• Sensory friendly/relaxed performance is on Sunday, March 12 at 11:00 a.m.
• Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at 201 Thomas Street, Seattle
• Garage and street parking are available with payment. Give yourself ample time if there is an event at Climate Pledge Arena
• Masks are strongly encouraged, but optional
• Seattle Children’s Theatre is running at full capacity

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About the Author

Candice McMillan

Candice McMillan has been writing about film for more than 10 years. Since becoming a mom to her two daughters, she’s had to hang up her affinity for horror films, catering to the two smallest critics who prefer shows about rescue dogs and a family of pigs. Candice has degrees in journalism and film critical studies from USC, and her favorite children’s film is a toss-up between “Anastasia” and “A Goofy Movie.”