The St. Louis Family Theatre Series rings in the New Year with a stage production based on an illustrated book series for young children.
Performed by the New York City-based theatrical production group, Theatre Works USA, Junie B. Jones brings the wacky title character to life. The national tour hits the Florissant Civic Center Theater on Friday night. The play features snippets of stories from the popular book series written by Barbara Park and drawn by Denise Brunkus, which now includes more than 25 editions.
Only three of the 13 total performances are open to the public. At $7 a ticket, the Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. public shows are already sold out.
Friday night’s 7:30 p.m. performance remains the final option for parents hoping to take children to see the play.
The other 10 shows have been reserved for children visiting with their elementary school classes from various districts. Children on field trips can enjoy the experience for only $3.
The troupe had planned to put on two plays a day, one at 10 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. for school children, but the snowstorm cancelled performances Thursday and Friday. Performances for Jan. 24 are the final two performances and remain scheduled.
“The schools, over the years, have had more and more to back off of spending for the arts, so this is a legitimate activity to introduce young people to the live performing arts and theatre,” said Gary Gaydos, civic center manager.
The series stands as an example of how a franchise can go “from page to stage,” which enables teachers to connect live performance with in-class reading, Gaydos said.
“This is the kind of series that we market to teachers and to students as an exciting way to also interest them in reading and going back to the library,” he said.
The first-grade protagonist from the book series is played by an adult, as are the other characters. As in the literature, the bite-sized conflicts of childhood are played for laughs on stage.
Since 1988, the St. Louis Family Theatre Series has been sponsored by the St. Louis branch of the Junior League, a women's service organization. Gaydos estimated that the series serves 30,000 to 40,000 people each year thanks to school field trips.
Play study guides are available for teachers to use in order to enhance the educational experience of seeing Junie B. Jones. American Eagle Credit Union acted as the program sponsor, providing printed programs for children to take home.
Advance tickets for the Friday night performance are available for purchase online or by calling the Civic Center at 314-921-5678. The box office will open one hour before the show.
Those who will miss Junie B. Jones can still catch a Family Series production this year. Peter Pan comes next with public dates from Feb. 18-20.
“I would urge people wanting to come to Peter Pan not to tarry,” Gaydos said. “Sunday tickets go first, then Saturday sells out, and then Friday lingers behind.”
The Family Series concludes in March with Duck for President, Fancy Nancy and Other Story Books, which again stars cast members from Theatre Works USA.