The Rabbit Box Theatre, a bar, restaurant and arts venue, opened in Pike Place Market last November. But, don’t let the literary-inspired craft cocktails and regularly scheduled rock n’ roll shows fool you — Rabbit Box is family-friendly until 10 p.m. and its founders are planning an ambitious roster of kid programs and events starting this month.
Rabbit Box was created as a gathering place for storytellers, writers, poets, performers, comedians, and musicians. It’s a place where artists meet to enjoy the company of each other, explore new ideas, build community, and share their work.
Kids programs on the horizon
Robynne Hawthorne, who co-founded The Rabbit Box with Tia Matthies, wants young people to experience that same creative energy by offering kids opportunities to learn and let their imaginations come to life.
Toward that end, Hawthorne and her collaborators working on a variety of programs for kids, including classes, show-and-tell events, storytelling hours, puppet shows, and more. Summer theater camps are also in the offing.
Events already happening
In the meantime, the venue has already hosted several family-friendly drag nights since opening. Performers edit their shows for “the language of family,” Hawthorne explains. And, they include Disney songs and moments of crowd work where they engage with kids in the audience.
“Our three-year-old regularly requests returning to see ‘the beautiful people in red’ and you bet we’ll be back,” said Christina Nolan Pane, who has brought her 3-year-old to see a few drag performances at the theater. “It’s an absolutely beautiful room, with delicious food and drinks, a welcoming community, great music, amazing performances, and fun!”
Up next for kids: Bingo and scavenger hunt
Kids are welcome at the venue until 10 p.m., but state law requires they leave at that time. Parents may want to skip shows scheduled to go beyond 10 p.m. or plan on exiting early. The Theater’s first kid-hosted bingo night, which Hawthorne says will become a regular offering, takes the stage Saturday, May 20th from 3 to 5 p.m. And in June, the venue will host a family-friendly scavenger hunt.
Hawthorne says her aim with current and future youth-oriented programs is to “let kids get involved in culture in a way that I don’t think happens very often.”
An inclusive approach
“We’re building something that kids can be part of by just coming to the market,” she says.
Hawthorne, a mom to three kids, has worked as a professional tutor to children with reading difficulties for the last twenty years. Her experience tutoring in programs like Wired for Reading and Handwriting Without Tears sealed her commitment to creating theater programs that serve kids of all strengths, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, Hawthorne plans to offer at least one event every month for a deaf audience.
“Part of the reason we want to create this monthly event for a deaf audience is that it’s hard to find places for kids’ interests anyway, and then I think some kids really get left out,” she says.
She adds that most of the theater’s events for children will be free or priced on a sliding scale.
“Some people will be able to afford it and some people may not, but we don’t want that to limit who can participate,” she says
Hawthorne says she is drawing on her mothering and tutoring experiences, her background staging cabaret theater, and the expertise of local mother-daughter duos Lucille and Josephine Lackie and Holley and Savina Shon Paramush as well as Magnolia Elementary School librarian Abby Levin to create programming invites kids to express themselves. The moms in this group know first-hand how impactful cultural and creative arts spaces and opportunities are for youth.
Along with having youth involved in the creation of kids programming at The Rabbit Box, many of the events, like the theatre camps and kid-hosted bingo, will also be somewhat open-ended, Hawthorne says, to give kids the chance to shape their experience.
Kids have a voice
“Kids have all these fun ideas but they don’t get allowed to see if that [idea] works or not. But, when you get to work in a group and see a big project come to fruition and you’re part of it the whole time, hands-on — kids really benefit from that,” said Hawthorne. “The Rabbit Box is that for me — it brings a lot of joy.”
When Hawthorne ran her first venue, U District café-cabaret-bar-theater The Pearl Coffeehouse, she brought her kids to work with her. She remembers how her young daughter naturally took advantage of the events at the space to explore her own talents.
“We did shows every day . . . and she would go up on stage and she would read a poem or do a belly dance and tell me what kinds of events we should be doing,” said Hawthorne. Through The Rabbit Box, she wants to make that kind of joyful on-stage experience one all kids can enjoy, not just those whose parents are part of Seattle’s cultural workforce.
Rabbit Box wants to hear from families
Hawthorne says she welcomes community input and ideas from families about future programming for kids. Contact her with your ideas through The Rabbit Box Theatre’s website.