Places to Go - Arts on the Horizon for Kids 0-6 (Alexandria, VA)


On Saturday morning we packed the whole family into the minivan and drove to Landmark Mall in Alexandria, VA to check out the inaugural production of "Arts on the Horizon," a new theatre and arts program focused on kids 0-6 years old (which is pretty exciting for me as all three of my kids meet the age criteria, which happens rarely in the arts). According to Michelle Kozlak, the company's founder, she wanted to create a theatre company for young children where "they would come and feel comfortable - somewhat like their playroom or living room at home. The lobby would have a place for kids to play and the theatre would be inviting . . . . shows would be . . . interactive, inclusive, and intimate."

And, in my opinion, thus far Ms. Kozlak's doing a pretty good job meeting her goals. The waiting area of the theatre basically operates as a large playroom (primarily for toddlers and young preschoolers) full of blocks, floor pillows and various other toys. Once we entered the actual theatre we discovered a gigantic rainbow parachute to sit on (P seemed enthusiastic about picking the color of her "seat.") For adults who aren't fans of criss-cross-applesauce a row of chairs rests against the wall.

The play, Drumming for Dishes, was short and simple, the actors don't speak and a guitar-player provides music throughout the entire production. The "plot" (and I use this word loosely) centers on the fun that a girl and her (possibly imaginary) friend have while exploring a kitchen. The play begins when the main lead discovers a friend hidden in the cabinets - all 3 of my children were enthralled watching this mysterious "friend" appear and disappear. Yes, in case you missed it I just said "all 3 of my children" - who range in age from almost 2 to 5.5, LAUGHING IN UNISON, as were most of the children in the audience, INCLUDING TODDLERS. I found this a pretty impressive start as the words "theatre" and "toddler" seem tough to mix.

After the mysterious friend appears the two actresses have fun "playing" in the kitchen - making pasta boxers into musical shakers, drumming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on kitchen utensils, marveling at how a colander folds in on itself, trying to figure out how to clean up a kitchen spill, etc. Throughout their adventures the actresses flow in and out of the audience, inviting children to play with the kitchen gadgets (P and F seemed bizarrely elated while shaking a cous cous box). The play runs about 35 minutes, which seemed just a little bit too long for the younger ones in the audience, most toddlers started to fuss at about 20-25 minutes. On one hand, don't let this keep you from attending, as I've never seen toddlers watch anything for more than 20 minutes. But, on the other hand, I think it would have helped if they ramped up the action a little bit at the 20 minute mark as some of the kitchen games were becoming a little redundant. This being said I liked the fact that the theatre seemed fine with fussy toddlers, there were no evil glances, no employees asking people to "take their children elsewhere"; rather, the resonating vibe appeared to be "well, kids will be kids."

All in all, I found the show a pretty fun family activity. Parking at Landmark is easy and readily-available**. The theatre is an incredibly welcoming place (they even have a roped-off area for stroller-parking). And the play managed to entertain my three children who are at three different stages of development, not an easy feat. Further, as a parent the play helped remind me how fascinating the world can be when you're young. I tend to get caught up in "going somewhere" and/or "doing something", where the play served as a needed reminder that kids' needs are often quite simple, for them a kitchen contains a world of discovery.

Drumming for Dishes has both weekend and weekday showtimes, tickets are $8 per person. Arts on the Horizon also offers kids' classes and camps and lots of fun stuff. Click here to check it out, I highly suggest a visit. Although there's a lot in DC for children in general I still find it hard to find weekend activities aimed at really young children, so I'm glad that Arts on the Horizon exists and I hope they continue to put on great productions.

**If you want to make a day of it, Landmark mall also has an indoor children's playarea and a food court.

By the way, I received free tickets to review this play, but this didn't influence my review. Hopefully you all know me well enough to know that if I don't like something, I'll say I don't like it.


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