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Onstage, Underage

Excellent kids’ theater comes cheap.

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Puppets from The Animal Journey.  

It doesn’t quite have the reach and outrageousness of the Fringe Festival, but the Summer Youth Theatre Festival does match it on value ($5 a seat). It’s a new venture by the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, which in early 2000 got a $1 million grant and bought and rehabbed a Fort Greene building on the fringes of BAM’s culture district. Twenty-one theater companies (many formerly operating out of apartments) would eventually move in, and kids seeking acting classes soon followed; from there it wasn’t a big step to put those budding actors onstage, joined by grown-up talent. This year, the 26-performance lineup (with shows at kid-friendly midday times) includes The Animal Journey, a life-size-puppet show aimed at preschoolers that’s full of audience interaction. For grade-school kids, there’s The Adventures of Margaret the Brave, based on an Irish folktale, about a clever girl who sets off to stop a mean giant from intimidating the townspeople and finds herself engaging in some comic combat scenes along the way. Freedom Is My Middle Name, geared to older kids, opens with a group of wisecracking high-schoolers complaining about an assignment on little-known African-American historical figures. When the characters—the first black nurse, an abolitionist preacher, and an Underground Railroad conductor—come to life, the students learn that the past has a multitude of unsung heroes. With three weeks’ worth of programming this time around, SYTF producers are expecting to surpass last year’s attendance. “It was more workshoppy in the past,” says Stephanie Bok, an event producer. “Now we’ve stepped it up, and our next goal is to have every show sold out.”

7/14–8/3, Mondays through Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; South Oxford Space, 138 S. Oxford St., nr. Atlantic Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-398-3078 or offbroadwayonline.com); $5 each.


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