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‘Bud,’ ‘Pirate Ghost’ — kid-friendly stage plays debut here

Travis Turner stars 'Bud Not Buddy' running trhough Feb. 24 Chicago Children's Theatre. | Margaret Strickland~For Chicago Children's Theatre.

Travis Turner stars in "Bud, Not Buddy," running trhough Feb. 24 at the Chicago Children's Theatre. | Margaret Strickland~For Chicago Children's Theatre.

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‘Bud, Not Buddy’

♦ Jan. 12-Feb. 24

♦ Chicago Children’s Theater, Ruth Page Art Center, 1016 N. Dearborn

♦ Tickets, $20-$36 (recommended for ages 8 and older)

♦ Visit www.chicagochil; (872) 222-9555

‘The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost’

♦ Jan. 12-Feb. 17

♦ Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.

♦ Tickets, $15 (recommended for ages 5 and older)

♦ Visit www.lifeline; (773) 761-4477

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:07PM

Chicago’s children’s theater community is back in full swing with new offerings from two troupes: Chicago Children’s Theatre’s “Bud, Not Buddy” and Lifeline Theatre’s “The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost,” both opening Jan. 12.

Based on Christopher Paul Curtis’ Newbery Award-winning novel, “Bud, Not Buddy” makes its Chicago debut under the direction of Derrick Sanders, founding artistic director of Congo Square Theatre Company (who also staged CCT’s 2010 production of “Jackie and Me” about baseball great Jackie Robinson).

Orphaned after the death of his mother, 10-year-old Bud Caldwell sets out to find the father doesn’t know using clues left to him by his mother in a suitcase. His travels take him to Michigan in search of a jazz band leader he believes might be his father.

“Through his journey, through his travels, we find out what it means to have family, people in your life, and what it means to really have a family — what it means to your heart, to your soul,” Sanders said.

What Sanders finds appealing about the story is that it’s structured around the Depression and jazz music, creating at tale “that’s uniquely American.”

After audiences see “Bud,” Sanders hopes that, “in this age of technology and materialism … kids and families get the point to really look at themselves and realize that [the relationships] we have is the most important. Recently we just went through a time … of people losing their houses, losing their cars, losing all that stuff and kids kind of got swept up in what that all meant and it actually means very little as long as you are connected to your family. That’s why I think this play is very important. I think it’s really a reflection of what we just went through.”

Thursday performances include a pre-show pizza party at 5:30 p.m. and Friday’s 6:30 p.m. performance includes a post-show party.

Adapted by Chicago playwright Scott T. Barsotti from Geoffrey Hayes’ popular book, “The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost” gets its world premiere at Lifeline Theatre. It’s the tale of a young alligator, Otto, and his Uncle Tooth, who team up to capture a thief whose been terrorizing their quaint coastal town of Boogle Bay. Clues lead them to believe the culprit is the ghost of a dead pirate who was feared by many in the town.

“It’s really a story about facing fear and being brave, using your judgment and just sort of fun adventure overall,” said Barsotti, who has acted in previous Lifeline productions. This is the first time he’s adapted a story aimed at families.

He hopes the play will show young audience members that fear is something everyone experiences, that “it’s OK to be afraid ... that it’s healthy to identify fear and give it a name and face it rather than just ignore it.”

Best known for writing adult horror dramas, Barsotti has a soft spot for “Pirate Ghost” — it’s a favorite book from his childhood. The book belonged to Barsotti’s older brother; at age 4 or 5, Barsotti said, the book became his and he read it and loved it. That copy “was able to come full circle because I still have that copy of the book. Just over the holidays … I gave that book to my brother’s son, who is just turning 6 this year.”

In fact, Barsotti’s nieces and nephews (ages 3 to 6) are another reason he was happy to adapt “Pirate Ghost” for Lifeline — he wanted to write something that they could see.

“They’re going to come up and see it when it opens,” he said. “That’s just sort of a special thing for me.”


♦ The Museum of Science and Industry offers free general admission to Illinois residents weekdays through Jan. 31, providing guests the opportunity to see the temporary exhibit “Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit” free (it runs through Feb. 18). MSI is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive. Call (773) 684-1414 or visit

♦ The DuPage Children’s Museum’s Family Fun Friday Night theme is “The American Songbag” by Carol Weston. DCM extends its hours to 8 p.m. Jan. 11 for the event. Also at DCM, Tiny Great Performances showcases Perpetual Motion Inc. at 2 and 2:45 p.m. Jan. 13. Both programs are included in museum admission of $9.50 per person. The museum is at 301 N. Washington; call (630) 637-8000 or visit for more information.

♦ The Jan. 12 Family Film Series at Facets Multi-Media features “Snow Cool” at 9:30 a.m. (ages 7 and younger) and “Follow the Frost” at 11 a.m. (8 and older) at 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for kids. The series runs the second Saturday of the month. Call (773) 281-9075, ext. 3011 or visit

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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