If you believe that the arts are an integral part of life, and that children should be introduced to them from an early age, then you are in total agreement with the mission of Enchantment Theatre Company. Artistic Directors Landis Smith, Jennifer Blatchley Smith, and Leslie Reidel formed the Philadelphia-based non-profit organization in 2000, to create imaginative offerings that entertain, inspire, enrich, and challenge young audiences, while impressing all ages with the outstanding quality of its performances and its high production values.
Presenting inventive new works based on classic children’s literature and fairytales, familiar fables and age-old myths, Enchantment’s distinctive approach honors such time-honored traditions of world theater as Commedia dell’Arte, Kabuki, Bunraku, pantomime, magic, and dance. Its combination of silent, movement-based live actors and puppets with pre-recorded sound effects, original music, and voiceover narration and dialogue is enhanced by expressive masks, colorful costumes, hand-painted sets, and clever props. The result is a masterful fusion of engaging storytelling with the performing and visual arts, which appeals to all of the senses, stimulates intuitive thinking, and captivates adults and children alike.
In addition to its annual mainstage production each December—a spectacular version of Peter Rabbit Tales graced the theater of the Arts Bank in 2015–Enchantment tours its shows both nationally and internationally (Peter Rabbit Tales traveled throughout North America on its 2015-16 schedule) and also brings a selection of portable works to Philadelphia-area schools and local community venues.
The goal of “Enchantment Everywhere” is to provide kids with ready access to much-needed theatrical programming, at a time when funding for the arts has become severely limited in our country, and field trips, extracurricular activities, and arts classes have been reduced or completely eliminated from the curriculum of many of our underserved educational institutions. As part of its in-school initiatives, the socially-conscious company also offers a 20-week residency program with six teaching artists, culminating in an Enchantment-style production at the end of the course by the young participants. The programs are provided at a low cost to schools, with financial assistance available by application to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them. To date, Enchantment has served over 150,000 local students and has developed on-going relationships with many of its educational partners.
Enchantment’s current offering, and the third in its “Enchantment Everywhere” series, is a world-premiere production of The Beast in the Bayou, a delightful reimagining by the Smiths and Reidel of the timeless 18th century French fairytale Beauty and the Beast, with original music by Charles Gilbert. Set in a small town, forest, and marshland of Louisiana, filled with alluring reptiles, birds, and butterflies, the Americanized folk version of the transformative story underscores the value of nature, generosity, love, and kindness, and the importance of appreciating all living creatures for their inner beauty, not their outward appearance (“Beauty is what you do”). Presented its in signature style by a skilled ensemble of five (Erin Carney, Leah Holleran, Aaron Lathrop, Aaron Roberge, and Peter Smith), the 35-minute family-friendly show made its public debut at the Philadelphia Zoo on May 2nd, moves to Smith Memorial Playground for two performances on Mother’s Day, May 8th, and will continue to be seen in schools throughout the region.
Previous shows in the “Enchantment Everywhere” series, and also available for travel, are original adaptations of The Fisherman and the Flounder and The Brave Little Tailor, favorites from the collection of early German fairytales by the Brothers Grimm.
Following the public performances of The Beast in the Bayou, Enchantment will collaborate with the Philadelphia Sinfonia in a concert at the Kimmel Center on May 25th, where everyone can join in the magic.
The orchestral program includes works by Tchaikovsky and Glinka, and concludes with a multi-disciplinary presentation of Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (made famous in the animated 1940 Disney film Fantasia), featuring music by the Philadelphia Sinfonia Players and a theatrical interpretation by Enchantment Theatre Company. You can expect it to be thoroughly enchanting!
The Beast in the Bayou plays on Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 11:00 am and 12:15 pm, by Enchantment Theatre Company, performing at Smith Memorial Playground – 3500 Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia, PA. Reserve tickets online, or book a performance for your school.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice plays on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by Enchantment Theatre Company and the Philadelphia Sinfonia, performing at Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center – 300 South Broad Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 893-1999, or purchase online.