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Imagination Stage brings Mr. Popper’s Penguins to the stage from June 22 – August 7, 2022 promising the most fun kids will have inside this summer! Based on the 1939 Newbery Honor novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, the musical’s book is by Robert Kauzlaric, with music and lyrics by George Howe. Nathaniel P. Claridad directs a talented cast of four actors, plus 12 lovable puppet penguins. Press Opening is June 25 at 7:00. To reserve tickets or arrange for interviews, contact Laurie Levy-Page.
The story, set in 1930’s Depression-era America, tells of Mr. Popper, a painter of modest means, who dreams of a fantastic Antarctic adventure. He’s thrilled when a penguin named Captain Cook waddles out of a mysterious box left on his doorstep. His local zookeeper donates a female companion and soon comes…the patter of 20 baby penguin feet! To feed all of these mouths, the imaginative Mr. Popper and his wife turn the energetic brood into a must-see traveling vaudeville act full of song and dance. But the rigors of performing take a toll on them all, and they must make a difficult decision. After following his wildest dreams, Mr. Popper finally follows his deepest convictions.
Founding Artistic Director Janet Stanford loves “how some wonderful themes of the story come into clear focus through the lens of time.” Specifically, “Popper’s heroic optimism, creativity, and resilience in the 1930’s speak to the social/emotional wellness skills we all need today.” And the Popper’s attentiveness and care for the animals also rings true. For Stanford, their desire to restore the penguins to their proper environment “reminds us that we human beings are stewards of the planet and have responsibility to respect our fellow creatures and the earth’s natural order and climate.”
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is joining forces with Imagination State to raise awareness of penguin conservation and create activities to enrich the audience’s understanding of these beloved black and white birds. “The National Zoo is delighted to work with Imagination Stage on all things penguin!” said Pamela Baker-Masson, Associate Director of Communications and Exhibits. “From dazzling fun-facts to sharing ways theater goers can help wild penguins, we’re eager to support and amplify the show’s conservation message about these remarkable creatures.”
Director Claridad grew up in metro DC, graduated from University of Maryland, and is now a New York-based director and actor. He has worked as an actor at Imagination Stage in Mulan, and is making his IStage directorial debut with Mr. Popper’s Penguins. About the show, Claridad says, “It celebrates both the families we are born into and the families we choose. Alongside that, it also celebrates the power those relationships have in creating something larger than ourselves…something that expands our imagination and is perhaps joyful, curious, and maybe even involves something a little unexpected. Like penguins.”
The cast includes Jonathan Atkinson, Edima Essien, Sylvern Groomes Jr., and Karen Vincent. Each is multi-talented and will display their virtuosity as they sing, dance, operate puppets, and hilariously fill multiple roles. Since the show is set in a show biz milieu, the child audience will get a peek behind the scenes at all the versatility it takes to make theatre magic.
The rest of the creative team includes Musical Director Debbie Jacobson, Scenic Designer Andrew Cohen, Costume Designer Ivania Stack, Lighting Designer Sarah Tundermann, and Sound Designer Reid May. The puppets are designed by Alex Vernon, who recently played the title character in Imagination Stage’s Corduroy.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins runs June 22 – August 7, 2022, with general public performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 10:30, Saturdays at 1:30 and 4:00, and Sundays at 1:30. The play, to be staged in the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Theatre, is best for ages 3-10. Tickets are $12 – $36 (group rates available) and may be purchased online at imaginationstage.org or by phone at 301-280-1660.
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