A White Christmas Guaranteed!
Patty Pockets Brings Songs, Stories, Smiles – and Snow – to Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts
New England weather may be famously unpredictable, but that’s not stopping Jerry Goehring, the executive director of the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, from announcing a 100 percent chance of snow this Christmas on stage at Sacred Heart University’s Fairfield campus.
This December 23rd, the University’s mainstage will host the return of Patty’s Place, an hour-long children’s show often described as “A Prairie Home Companion for kids.”
Audience members are seated onstage – parents usually in chairs, children invariably on the floor as close to the action as possible. The scene is a quaint New England town, with a live band warming up in the bandstand.
Tuba John and Uncle Al lead the ensemble through a number of pieces that every parent will recognize as classics from “real music” (Under the Boardwalk was the opener for the November show), but which are given enough of a swinging jazzy twist for all the kids to claim them as their own.
Patty Pockets, the show’s hostess and owner of Patty Pockets’ Bed & Breakfast, soon takes the stage and leads the children (and parents) through the next 60 minutes of this fantastic, engaging and brightly intelligent piece of live theater.
Much like the older show to which it is compared, Patty’s Place has a number of regular milestones in each performance – jazzy musical interludes by Tuba John and company, celebrity guest artists, mail call (featuring letters and pictures the children place in Patty’s mailbox before the show begins), and storytime. Woven through it all is a simple themed story that changes with every show, often related to the season or holiday which may be approaching. (Two days before Christmas, you can guess what will be on everyone’s lips at the Edgerton Center…)
“Patty’s Place makes young children feel happy, accepted and loved,” explains Goehring, one of the show’s creators. While that may be a noble ambition for any working children’s theater, it is the way in which Patty’s Place goes about its business that sets it apart.
For a start, every single performance is unique. Variations in guests, artists’ availability, and story, ensure that no two shows are alike. If that’s exciting for the audience, imagine the performers who have a new show to rehearse every time they show up.
It takes seasoned performers – fresh enough to give the energy a young audience demands and confident enough to improvise and adapt as necessary for an ever-changing live performance.
“We are professionals who perform for children,” explains Patty Carver, who plays Patty Pockets and who writes every script. “We try to approach our shows as if they were an adult show.”
It is that level of respect for its audience – young and old – that helps Patty’s Place rise to the top. The children love the fact that the adults properly take time for them, and the adults get the benefit of a show that isn’t…well…childish.
…And there will even be snow.
December’s show will be on Saturday, the 23rd, at 2:00 p.m. Future performances are scheduled in 2007 on February 17, April 21, May 19 and June 9. Tickets are $18/adult, $10/child, and can be purchased online at www.edgertoncenter.org, by phoning the Edgerton Center box office at 203-371-7908, or by stopping by the theater in person on campus at Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield. Box office hours are Monday to Friday, noon until 4:00 p.m.