Maybe it was the light drizzle that kept the Annenberg plaza surprisingly sparse last Saturday morning, or perhaps it was the multitude of performance offerings that kept attendees indoors; but upon entering the 2019 Phildelphia Children’s Festival, my daughter and I immediately felt like we discovered an unknown, hidden gem. She darted from booth to booth making stop-motion videos with The Clay Studio, crafting pipe-cleaner crowns with the Pennsylvania Ballet, spinning plates with Circadium, transforming into a masked princess with Stacey’s Face Painting, and hugging the always lovable Philly Phanatic—all without a single wait time.
We took a brief walk to another participating venue, Iron Gate Theater, to catch our first show—a ballet titled Prince Charming, based on the story of Cinderella, but told from the prince’s perspective. The production was primarily performed by younger dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet that (along with sparkly costumes, funny little mice, and a rags-to-riches transformation) seemed to resonate with the children in the audience. My daughter emerged from the show begging to take dance lessons and claiming the role of the Fairy Godmother in future productions. As a former ballerina and current champion for the arts, this was music to my ears.
Our walk back to the Annenberg Center was a little slower as we practiced our jetés and arabesques, but we made it in time to see the afternoon showing of Air Play. This was a performance I knew my daughter would enjoy; but I had no idea how much I would personally gain from it. Even writing this review now, I cannot accurately describe the pure happiness that washed over me as a spectator. Most caregivers know that seeing something through the eyes of a child often allows one to appreciate a sense of wonderment—a feeling that eventually takes a backseat to logic as we get older. Air Play went a step further. The show allowed me to see the magic through my daughter’s eyes while simultaneously appreciating the curiosity of science as it pertains to the air around us. Everyday materials whirled through the theater as a pair of colorful clowns emoted hope, sadness, anxiety, and silliness, all while darting through an audience frequently on its feet in pursuit of floating objects. The laughter was hysterical at times, the silence punctured by gasps at others. It was the perfect conclusion to a full day of artistic exposure.