PA Performing Arts for Young Audiences

In 2014, PAPAYA engaged White Box Theatre to collaborate on the visioning of the organization and create interdisciplinary engagement and educational experiences.   Through conversations with touring artists, content experts, local educators, and artists,  White Box Theatre  designed and led immersive, post-show experiences called the “LAB,” trained new and seasoned teaching artists for LAB program deliverycreated curriculum for teachers and families, and  created, hosted and facilitated salon sessions, and  special events. 

PA Performance Arts for Young Audiences (PAPAYA), presents internationally touring performances, produces new performance, and creates immersive engagement experiences for youth and adults. PAPAYA has presented programming at the Annenberg Center and the Painted Bride Performing Arts Center. 

Developing engagement programming begins with researching the story content and artists process of making through watching video, studying content/context of the work, and speaking at length with the touring artists ahead of time.  White Box then looks for local organizations that work with similar content as possible partners for program delivery.  Content themes and methods of storytelling are distilled and groups of local teaching artists are formed to make up the LAB Animators (artist-educators that bring both immersive environment and workshop ideas to life).  Together we watch video, discuss  research, weave in the goals of partner organizations.  Then creating  an interactive experience in the spaces in and around the theatre to deepen the exploration of content, expand the world of theatrical, inventive experience, and inviting participants to be together in a longer shared experience.   Sometimes these pre-program development sessions are also held for teachers and/or core stakeholders to deepen the theater experience and create community.

The immersive environments vary.  In a performance where shadow play was central to the storytelling, White Box might created an interactive space with ready-made shadow puppets, light sources, and materials for creating new puppets.  LAB Animators and touring artist worked with small groups of youth and adults to respond to questions about the performance through movement and play in a shadow world.  In the cabaret show about the history of women and the bicycle, White Box Theatre built a playground of musical bicycles amplified with contact microphones.  Participants were encourage to write short lyrics and find rhythm and sound by bowing a spoke or percussing a seat.   For a spoken word performance, students were given prompts for writing and a DJ improvised with them as they spilled onto the stage to share voices and visions.

Lesson plans for teachers and families offer  context for the performance, review the theatre experience, offer arts-based interactive activities and specific and  open-ended questions.


Performances for which White Box Theatre created programming:

Titus, 2016
Titus is a funny solo performance from Scotland.  The story focuses on the challenges of a 10 year-old boy confronting the loss of his mother, his father’s depression, and his reliance on his friendship with a girl named Tina.  Performed while teetering on the edge, the performance celebrates the power of storytelling and imagination.  White Box Theatre developed workshops and curriculum for adults and youth focused on writing and performing monologue.


The End of Everything Ever, 2016
White Box Theatre prepared curriculum, design and artist-training for the LAB, and salon experiences in response to New International Encounters (NIE) performance The End of Everything Ever. In preparation White Box consulted  with the Jewish Museum and the Anti-Defamation League. P NIE is comprised of artists from the Czech Republic, UK, and Norway, this show has been performed throughout Europe and on Broadway. Inspired by true stories of the Kindertransport, the UK’s rescue of Jewish children from Germany before WWII.  This story follows the life of a 6 year girl, Agate, who’s German-Jewish family decides to send her on a train alone to the United Kingdom to an adoptive family, in hopes of having one family member survive.  rogramming included performance and writing exercises and  interaction with the international performers.


Miss Ophelia, 2015
White Box Theatre created salon, curriculum, and LAB experiences using shadow puppetry, movement, and  discussion in response to  Netherlands’ Het Filiaal’s beautiful, funny, and profound performance based in the writing of children’s author, Michael Ende. Using object-theater, shadow puppetry, and comic acting, this story follows the arch of a shy girl born into a family who expects her to become an actress. Because she is shy, and in fact can only whisper she becomes a line-prompter hiding under the stage instead –over time she befriends shadows, confronts solitude and eventually her own mortality. Students painted the journey of Miss Ophelia, made puppets, experimented with shadow, and discussed the tender experience of her journey with shadows.


The Mayhem Poets,  2015
White Box Theatre created salon, curriculum, and LAB experiences for this US performance focusing on spoken work.   For this event, The Lab generated over 1000 poems written and performed by youth and adults.


SPIN,  2015
White Box Theatre  created salon discussion groups, curriculum for middle school teachers, and an immersive Lab experience in response to Canadian singer/songwriter Evalyn Parry’s dynamic, funny, multi-media cabaret performance about women’s rights and the evolution of bicycle. White Box Theatre worked with composer Bhob Rainey and six other local artists to create an immersive visual and interactive installation which invited song-writing and instrumentation on bicycles – spokes, seats and frames were rigged with contact microphones, historic facts and personal experience were integrated into song or poem-writing. This curriculum and installation-design are now touring internationally with Parry’s show. This work was geared towards children 10 and up.


Shadowtown,  2014
White Box Theatre created an environmental installation and education materials aimed at children aged 3 + and their families for the PAPAYA presentation of Australia’s Patch Theatre, Me and My Shadow, at the Annenberg Center as part of the 30 anniversary of the International Children’s Theater Festival. The installation encouraged experimentation with the art and science of light and shadow, in an exquisite installation throughout the Annenberg public spaces. The installation invited creation and performative participation for up to 250 children at a time.