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"The Wizard of Oz" at the Children's Theatre Company in 2011. It's scheduled to return for the troupe's 50th anniversary season. (Photo by Dan Norman)

For Its 50th, Children’s Theatre Company Slates Premieres, Collaborations

Adaptations of ‘Akeelah and the Bee,’ ‘The Jungle Book,’ ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and stories by Ezra Jack Keats bring in national and international talents.

MINNEAPOLIS: Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary season in 2015–16. To commemorate it, the company’s season will feature five world premieres, a Twin City debut and collaborations with names like director Charles Randolph-Wright (Motown the Musical), Italian puppetry master Fabrizio Montecchi (Teatro Gioco Vita),  Chicago-based director Rachel Rockwell and Broadway producer Kevin McCollum (Avenue Q, In the Heights).

“We see it as our challenge, our responsibility and truly, our joy to create innovative theatre experiences for young audiences on our stages, in our classrooms and in our community,” said Peter C. Brosius, CTC’s artistic director, in a statement. “A leader in early childhood education and the arts, CTC’s dedication to early learning permeates the organization, with theatrical performances designed for preschoolers and the Early Bridges program for ages 2–5. Our 50th anniversary celebrates all of these extraordinary accomplishments while calling us to forge an ever stronger, more vibrant future.”

Randolph-Wright will direct a world-premiere adaptation of Akeelah and the Bee (Sept. 1-Oct. 11), based on the 2006 film about young spelling bee champ Keke Palmer. Next is a new staging of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (Sept. 29-Dec. 6), directed by Greg Banks.

Brosius will direct the following offering, a return of CTC’s beloved production of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (Nov. 3-Jan. 3). Making its Twin City debut next is The Frog Bride (Jan. 12-Feb. 18), based on a Russian fairy tale involving three princes, two fair maidens and a frog. Lenard Petit directs.

The cold season will be celebrated with Snow Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats (Feb. 9-March 20), brought to life with puppets designed by Montecchi, in a production directed by Brosius. Ann Carlson will use her dancing skills to help youngsters learn the differences between kids and the goat kind of kid in her show Animal Dance (March 22-May 1).

Closing out the season will be an adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s book series The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (April 12-June 5), produced through special arrangement with Fox Stage Productions and McCollum. Rockwell will direct.

To further celebrate its 50th, CTC has other events planned: A “season opener” will commence with a free “grand slam” event at Target Field on August 9, featuring a Jumbotron screening of A Year with Frog and Toad, based on the Arnold Lobel stories with the original Broadway cast. There will also be a 50th-themed Curtain Call Ball and Backstage Bash on Sept. 12 and a free open house at CTC on Feb. 15, 2016.

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