WHEN: Sundays at 1:00 pm, February 7th through May 29th
WHERE: Merseles Studios, 339 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
TICKETS: (advance tickets/online sales: $9 for children; $10 for adults. At the door: $11 and $12; $9 each for groups of 20 or more).
For online tickets visit: www.jctcenter.org.
JCTC-KIDS, the children’s arm of Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC), provides professional theater and affordable art classes for young people (from Pre-K to “tween” age). JCTC-KIDS presents Beauty & The Beast. From the landmark 1946 French Film by Jean Cocteau to the Walt Disney Animated Movie and long-running Broadway Musical, this timeless tale has delighted generations of audiences. Many know the dream-like story of a young woman who saves her father’s life by agreeing to live with The Beast, who is not the monster he appears to be but a good-hearted prince suffering under an evil spell. But few are familiar with the original fairytale, especially as told through the magic of puppetry.
“Disney is not the only version of this story,” said Mike Leach, Chief Puppeteer and Executive Director of Puppetworks. “These fairytales go way back, and the key question kids always ask is where do these stories come from? Well, they come from literature and folklore, and if children only see the story on a DVD or streaming on a screen, they miss a lot, especially with Beauty & The Beast, which is a wonderful fable about love and loyalty and values we all share.”
Puppetworks uses theatrical storytelling techniques and genuine marionette puppets, keeping alive a tradition that pre-dates the Renaissance. Beauty & The Beast is one of Puppetworks most ambitious and time-tested productions. The script, written by Nicolas Coppola, Artistic Director/Founder of Puppetworks, was adapted from La Belle et la Bête, the earliest print version of the story, written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740.
The show features a classical music score by French composer Jules Massenet, hand-carved, wooden marionettes, a spectacular thunderstorm, an enchanted forest complete with animated vines and a talking snail, and a miraculous transformation of The Beast back into the kind and handsome prince.
Audiences of all ages are especially amazed by The Beast – a “live” actor wearing a costume specially designed for Puppetworks by James Wojtal, a world-renowned puppet fabricator. A frequent Jim Henson Company collaborator, Wojtal’s unique costumes and characters can be seen in international versions of Sesame Street, Bear in the Big Blue House and Mopatop's Shop.
“Beauty & The Beast is one of our most popular shows,” said Leach. “Children and families love the spectacle they see on the stage, but they also really connect to this story and relate to its themes. We get great feedback for this show and Puppetworks is thrilled to bring our version to our growing audiences in New Jersey.”
Beauty & The Beast is the fourth JCTC-KIDS/Puppetworks production, whose previous puppet shows were Cinderella, Pinocchio and The Emperor’s New Clothes/The Snow Queen. Since 1980, Puppetworks, a Brooklyn-based puppetry theater company, has been committed to preserving the tradition of live-theater presentations through the art of the Marionette, a form of children’s theater whose deep-cultural roots offers families a fun and engaging alternative to digital entertainment. With the custom-built Puppet Theater at Merseles Studios, JCTC-KIDS gave Puppetworks its New Jersey debut. In less than two years, the popularity of this unique theater experience has increased immensely.
“In today’s world, it’s so important for children to develop their imaginations and these classic fairytales encourage kids to dream,” said Olga Levina, Artistic Director, JCTC. “We started JCTC-KIDS to serve all the families in our wonderful, diverse community. With help from our supporters, we’re able to keep our JCTC-KIDS ticket prices and workshop classes affordable and through our Art-4-All program, we subsidize children from low-income families and under-served populations, because we believe theater and the arts should benefit every child. ”
She added, “Beauty & the Beast is a story about how love saves lives. I can’t think of a more important lesson for children to learn in today’s world.”
JCTC-KIDS programming receives support from the Provident Bank Foundation, Ben LoPiccolo Development Group, JCTC’s Board of Directors, private donors and local Jersey City businesses.
JCTC-KIDS also books special shows of Beauty & The Beast by Puppetworks for schools and other organized groups on weekdays. Art-4-All sponsored shows will be held mainly on weekdays, although other options are available upon request.
The new season of Puppetworks is part of an expansion of JCTC-KIDS programming. JCTC-KIDS Workshop—interactive classes in the arts, specifically designed for children 6-to-12, taught by Gabriel Pacheco, a Jersey City-based artist and arts educator—are also being held at Merselses Studios, Saturdays: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. For more information, visit jctcenter.org (financial aid available for qualified families).
All JCTC-KIDS programing is held at the newly upgraded Merseles Studios, a warm and comfortable space that features an Art Gallery, 11 Resident Artist Studios, Puppet theater, Black Box Theater and performance/classroom space.