This past spring, the EQT Children’s Theater Festival went virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the pandemic has birthed a first-ever holiday-season edition of the festival.
It too is online, of course, and in some ways there’s much more of it. The festival, which includes story times, sing-alongs, arts workshops and much more, started around Thanksgiving and continues through January.
Pam Komar, longtime director of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust-sponsored festival, said that far from simply doing their acts online, many participating troupes and artists are offering work custom-designed for the virtual realm.
“The amount of creativity and evolution coming out of the theater for young audiences industry is just really inspiring, and the work has changed and grown over the last couple of months,” she said.
Examples include “The Wizards of Oakwood Drive,” a live interactive show about two rivalrous siblings fighting over who is the better wizard.
“They’re going to have a contest of wizardry, and the kid are going to vote as to who’s the best,” said Tom Salamon, the show’s San Diego-based writer and director.
Kids can also talk with the actors and participate remotely in the magic.
"It’s how can we do something engaging on the internet live and participatory for times when everybody’s inside and in different places, and if you can’t go to the theater we’ll bring the stage to you," said Salamon.
“Wizards of Oakwood Drive” runs 45 minutes, with 15 performances Sat., Dec. 26, through Mon., Dec. 28.
The festival’s biggest days include Thu., Dec. 31, with more than 30 offerings.
Other shows include: “Itsy,” a play based on “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” by String Theory Theater; “Up and Away,” Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s immersive production designed for young audiences on the autism spectrum; and the National Players performing Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
Arts and crafts activities include: Making It: Andy Warhol’s Painting Techniques, with The Andy Warhol Museum; Build Your Own Miniature Town; and a drawing session with Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus”).
Dance includes “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” and the Zebras’ “Born in a Taxi.”
There’s also a virtual exploration of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s “living museum” collection of live animals.
Numerous storytimes include a read-along of “The Gruffalo” with Michelle Obama.
In January, the festival adds another interactive virtual-theater show. The Story Pirates' "Sleep Squad" promises to to "turn your home into a rocket ship to launch kids into their dreams."
Some events are ticketed or require reservations. Others are prerecorded, and many are free.