Early Childhood Initiative grows

"Children's Theatre proves nontraditional approaches can work. [Its] Early Bridges ought to be an inspiration for other Minnesota entities that might add an early-education dimension to their work. Minnesota needs an early-education surge. It's the most promising remedy for the biggest impediment to this state's future prosperity — the academic underachievement that's too prevalent among low-income and nonwhite populations. It ought to be in more places; CTC is seeking funding to expand."

CTC's Early Bridges program was featured in an editorial from Star Tribune. You can read the full editorial here.

Children's Theatre Company is dedicated to providing high-quality arts programming that respects and encourages the playful nature of our youngest audience members ages 2-5 with our Early Childhood Initiative. CTC believes that the theatre can help children rehearse the stages in life. With this in mind, we collaborate with leading performing artists to create work specifically for preschoolers; our Theatre Arts Training offers classes and camps for children as young as two; and we actively seek partnerships in the community to offer high-quality arts experiences for all.

One aspect of our Early Childhood Initiative is our Early Bridges program. Founded in 1997 by CTC Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius and author and fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes, Neighborhood Bridges (grades 3 and up), Building Bridges (kindergarten) and Early Bridges (preschool) is a nationally-recognized program that uses storytelling and creative drama to help children explore and interact with different stories, from tall tales to fairy tales to legends. In doing so, children not only learn about story structure but become empowered to think critically about the stories around them and to be confident in telling their own stories. We are excited to see how our latest addition, Early Bridges, develops into the future.

Another aspect of our Early Childhood Initiative is a partnership with the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, an organization that works to end child abuse and neglect and create strong, healthy families. The partnership began with a tour of CTC's preschool production The Biggest Little House in the Forest in 2013. This year, CTC is providing a Theatre Arts Training artist-in-residence, Chris Zappa, to lead arts-based activities for children and caregivers. The Crisis Nursery shelters children for up to three nights in a nurturing, non-shaming, developmentally-appropriate environment. The artist-led sessions by CTC's Teaching Artist incorporate lots of movement, music, and dramatic play, which responds to this population's need for stimulating activities that relieve stress. Play-based storytelling allows young children to lead and respond to stories, providing a channel for self-expression which helps them process the trauma and stress of their experience.

Another partnership that continues to grow is with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM). CTC worked with AuSM last year to develop Sensory Friendly performances and we are excited to deepen the partnership this year by providing arts activities for young children at the "early intervention age" (ages 3-5) on the autism spectrum. Between January 1, 2015 and December 30, 2015, CTC's Theatre Arts Training Teaching Artists will lead activities in collaboration with education staff from AuSM. We believe this project will give parents of children on the spectrum valuable skills they can use to bring the arts into their homes and will help foster and develop self-expression, creativity and imaginative play for young children with ASD, which are common challenges related to the disorder.

We look forward to more opportunities to serve our youngest patrons in 2015. You can read more about our Early Childhood Initiative here.