Creatures and pigeons and more, oh my!

The new decade kicked off with several exciting Arts Education Program productions, including Wilde Creatures and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (The Musical!) in January, followed by Yamato – The Drummers of Japan and Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks in February. Reaching more than 8,000 students and teachers throughout Central Virginia, there was rarely a quiet moment in the Auditorium—indeed, it was often bursting with laughter, applause, and awestruck gasps!

The Paramount staged two productions of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (The Musical!), which was a delight for young students, many of whom wore Pigeon shirts and homemade paper hats. One teacher shared that her group of students got a true “life imitates art” experience when they took the Charlottesville Area Transit trolley to attend the show. Another teacher commented, “It felt like we took a field trip to NYC to a Broadway show! It was great and we loved it!”

Wilde Creatures brought Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales to life and involved the audience in the story, much to the students’ enjoyment. One teacher said of the show, “The music and storytelling were amazing, the sets and props magical… Our students were talking about it afterwards and left the Theater happy and excited about the story.” Two students wrote reviews about the show, and not only did they give it five stars, they were also kind enough to share their thoughts with us!

Yamato – The Drummers of Japan brought the ancient art of Taiko drumming to The Paramount’s Stage not only for their public performance on the evening of February 20, but also for an Arts Education show earlier that morning. The drums could be heard throughout the building and even from inside the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library on East Market Street! The students were awed at the athleticism of the drummers, the power of the drums’ vibrations, and the contagious energy of the show. Audience participation was a key factor of the show, and students eagerly clapped along with the drummers’ rhythms. One teacher’s comment captured the sentiments of many: “It was like traveling to Japan without ever leaving our hometown! I thought it was wonderful how much was conveyed by the music and performance. Music is a language all its own.”

Returning to The Paramount for an 11th season, Mad River Theatre Works brought the story of legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks to the Stage with Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks. The musical tells the story of Rosa Parks’ life while dispelling myths about Parks and her protest. “My students gained a better perspective on Rosa Parks and the work that she and so many other people did in the Civil Rights movement,” wrote one teacher. “They really enjoyed it and described her as a ‘hero’!” Excitingly, all of Henley Middle School (900 students) was able to attend this performance. Henley’s principal described the show as a very important experience for her school community to share together.

There are two more productions scheduled for the 2019-20 school year, one of which—Llama Llama – Live!­will also include a public performance on Friday, April 24 at 6:00PM. The Paramount Arts Education Program is committed to presenting the finest arts education performances for students in Central Virginia. Approximately 13,500 students and teachers have attended Arts Education performances so far this year, and over 195,000 have attended since 2004. With the support of Arts Education Partners, The Paramount Theater is able to offer performances at a reduced cost or free of charge, thus ensuring that these programs are accessible to all students.

Photos by Taylor Matousek