Spellbound Theatre Brings Creative Play To South Slope

Spellbound Theatre Brings Creative Play To South Slope
Lauen Jost

Spellbound Theatre, which introduced their drop-in storytime to South Slope in January, recently announced that June will welcome a new series of creative play classes to the area for kids ages 0 to 3, and there’s still plenty of time to sign up for the summer fun.

We sat down with Spellbound Theatre’s co-founder Lauren Jost to learn a bit more about the history of this impressive family arts center, and what parents can look forward to in the summer classes.

SSN: First of all, tell us a bit about yourself and the history of Spellbound.
ST: I’m a theatre director, performer and writer, specializing in theatre for the very young (under age 6) and arts integration for elementary aged students. I co-founded Spellbound Theatre in 2011 as a company that would provide quality performances for young audiences, as well as community and educational programs such as our storytimes and creative play classes. For the past two years we’ve been growing rapidly, bringing our programs to Park Slope, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, and now South Slope/Windsor Terrace! We’ve produced three original plays (Wink, Aidee, and Under the Tree) and served hundreds of families with our educational/community outreach.

Why did you decide to focus your talents on performing for and working with children?
I’ve worked for many years as a theatre artist and educator for some of the greatest theatres for young audiences in the country (Seattle Children’s Theatre, New Victory Theatre). I am inspired by the incredible work I saw being developed for very young children around the globe, but found that very little of it was being made in New York. I decided to form Spellbound Theatre to explore multi-disciplinary performance for young audiences in Brooklyn — a community that really values quality work for children. Artistically, I think that young children are some of the most discerning, challenging, and inspiring audiences. They haven’t yet learned how to be “polite” audiences – if they like what you’re doing they will give you amazing feedback, but if they don’t like it they certainly won’t pretend that they do. I am so inspired by finding theatrical moments that 1, 2, 3, and 4 year olds find engaging and interesting, and what really spark their imaginations.

How does theatrical play enhance a child’s development?
Play is the most basic form of learning. We experiment, problem-solve, and take risks through the safety of play, and then apply these discoveries to the real world. In addition to basic creative skills, theatrical play teaches children social and emotional skills, pre-literacy skills, and the ability to look at the world around them through multiple perspectives. You can read up more on some of our ideas for creative play at home on our blog.

What brought your classes here to South Slope?
We have a lot of families who attend our weekly drop-in Storytime at Crespella Cafe (1658 8th Avenue at Prospect Avenue), and we’ve been hearing that there weren’t a lot of activities for babies and toddlers in that area. We started looking for a space to begin creative play classes for South Slope/Windsor Terrace families and were delighted when Terrace Dance Studio (273 Prospect Park West and 17th Street) offered to partner with us.

What can parents expect in your new South Slope classes?
Every week, children and caregivers will play with a new creative theme: sound/music, balance/acrobatics, storytelling/puppets, etc. We design our classes to reach a range of ages, so each class has interactive songs and games, multi-sensory activities such as bells to ring or puppets to hold, and physical activities such as climbing, crawling, or dancing, depending on the child’s abilities. The toddler group has an additional level of imaginative play, so that these activities are framed within a familiar children’s story and introduce toddlers to the concept of imagining that they are within a story.

How much will the classes cost, and how can parents register?
Summer classes begin June 3 and run 8 weeks through August 1 (skipping the 4th of July). The cost is $185 for 8 weeks. Missed classes can be made-up at another session anytime over the summer. Our full schedule of days and locations, as well as registration information, can be found on the theatre’s website.

In addition to their upcoming summer classes, Spellbound Theatre will be presenting the world-premier of their newest original play, Under the Tree, at JJ Byrne Playground/Old Stone House in June. This show is an immersive art installation and performance for ages 1-6. Children and parents will discover a hidden and magical place”under the tree” which comes alive with the creatures who call that world home. June 9, 16, and 23. For ticket information, visit the Spellbound Theatre website.

Image via Spellbound Theatre