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Chicago Children’s Theatre brings ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ to life

Nate Lewellyn stars as Harold “Harold Purple Crayon” Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Nate Lewellyn stars as Harold in “Harold and the Purple Crayon” at Chicago Children’s Theatre.

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‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’


♦ Through Nov. 4

♦ Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, (872) 222-9555

♦ Tickets, $20-$36

♦ For all locations: chica

Nov. 7-11

♦ Beverly Arts Center, 2401 W. 111th; (773) 445-3838

♦ Tickets, $21-$41

Nov. 14-18

♦ North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; (847) 673-6300

♦ Tickets, $16.50-$42.50

Updated: November 13, 2012 6:15AM

Chicago Children’s Theatre is nomadic no longer, kicking off its sixth season with “Harold and the Purple Crayon” in its new, permanent home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts at 1016 N. Dearborn.

A staple in households with children since 1955, “Harold” is Crockett Johnson’s simple tale of a 4-year-old boy with a large imagination. Wielding his purple crayon, Harold uses his creativity and drawing skills to take himself on adventures to the moon, across the sea and on a hot-air balloon ride — among others. It comes to life under the direction of Sean Graney, the CCT artistic associate who also directed “The Hundred Dresses,” “Honus and Me” and “Hana’s Suitcase.”

Aimed at kids 3 and older, “Harold” is part of CCT’s mission to reach out to the youngest theatergoers and make theater a positive experience. Familiarity with this childhood classic was behind the choice of “Harold,” which also is a signature family production for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

“There’s a lot of takes on this, and this is a completely different take on Harold,” said CCT Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell of the selection. “It’s a classic, and this [script] is just a different way to look at that piece. We also are really interested in continuing to draw really young audiences as we build our institution, so to speak. So I’m constantly looking for something that’s going to introduce that child to their first theater experience, and this just seemed like a perfect piece for that.”

Graney agrees that “Harold” provides a good introduction to theater.

“It’s a wonderful story; it’s so simple,” he said. “It’s all based on visuals, visual cues and melodies rather than complicated storytelling. So I think the kids can really enjoy seeing these worlds, these big projections being made in front of them, and they can follow along and understand. And the songs are very catchy and the whole thing is relatively short [45 to 50 minutes].”

The show combines puppetry, projected animation and music “to create these worlds that Harold creates with his purple crayon in different ways,” Graney said. “It’s like all these different levels of astonishment.”

Along with astonishment, Graney promised audience participation, details of which were still being worked out at press time.

Ultimately, Graney hopes “Harold” will inspire kids “to use their imaginations more and also realize that theater is a great place to use your imagination. And I hope that they become theater audiences and theater appreciators for life. It’s a good experience.”

Having a home of its own allows CCT to expand the theater experience a bit. On Thursdays, starting Oct. 18, it will offer Piece Pizza party nights that start at 5:30 p.m. ($20 covers show and pizza party). On Fridays, starting Oct. 19, families can enjoy post-show pajama parties. PJs are appropriate attire, and cast members will join the audience for craft activities led by Wishcraft Workshop ($25 covers show and party).


♦ The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago opens its 14th season of FamilyDance Matinees with Gallim Dance Oct. 13. A free movement workshop begins at 2:15 p.m. followed by the performance at 3 p.m. The series also includes the Seldoms (Oct. 27), Double Edge Theater (Jan. 19), the Chicago Moving Company (March 23) and Delfos Danza Contemporanea (April 6). Admission is $15 for adults, free for kids 12 and younger. Call (312) 369-8330 or visit

♦ Baby Loves Disco holds the first of three Chicago events from noon to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago. The family dance party offers fun, food and activities for all ages. Other dates are Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, same time, same place. Visit for more information.

♦ In conjunction with Oak Park’s Green Halloween event, the Lake Theatre, 1022 Lake Street, will screen “Gumby: The Movie” at 10 a.m. Oct. 13. Admission is free and includes a meet and greet with Gumby after the film. Call (708) 848-9088 or visit Oak Park’s Green Halloween runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. downtown and features a Green Pumpkin Trail for kids to follow; visit for more information.

♦Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital will host its annual KidsFair Extraordinaire from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 13 at Carl Sandburg High School, 131st Street and La Grange Road, Orland Park. The free event offers interactive activities aimed at promoting good health. Call (708) 684-3293 for more information.

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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