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FALL CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS FOR FAMILIES 2008

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by Griffin Miller

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Fall brings with it the start of all things cultural. From art exhibits to theater, dance and music performances and all kinds of special events, there is something for everyone. Here are some of the cultural highlights awaiting families this season.

Holiday Tradition

   Purchase Dance Corps will team up with guest artists from the New York City Ballet for Nutcracker ’08.  Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic tale and Peter Tchaikovsky’s epic music, Nutcracker ’08 brings together more than 100 children from the Westchester area and features choreography by the Purchase College Conservatory of Dance faculty.  Artistic Director Bettijane Sills is a Conservatory ballet faculty member and a former New York City Ballet dancer. December 5 at 7:15pm, December 6 at 2pm and 7pm, and December 7 at 1pm and 5pm. $25-$50. Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase. 914-251-6200; www.artscenter.org.

Clay Extravaganza

   It’s all things clay, when the Westchester Arts Council and the Clay Art Center partner with 60 venues and over 600 local, national, and international artists to present All Fired Up! A Celebration of Clay in Westchester.  Every member of the family is guaranteed to find a deeper appreciation for the art form.  With studio tours and craft shows, hands-on workshops, opening receptions and exhibitions, films and musical performances, education and entertainment is the core of this countywide event. Plus, there’s something new happening practically every day. October 3-November 30. www.allfiredup.info
   
Give Thanks On the Hudson

   After you’ve eaten that last bit of turkey, get in full swing for the holidays with Historic Hudson Valley’s Thanksgiving Weekend: Gateway to the Holiday Season. Washington Irving’s Sunnyside and Van Cortlandt Manor will be decorated for the season, and offering guided, themed tours and hands-on workshops for kids. Learn about historic holiday traditions and start your shopping early in the gift shops. November 28-30, 10am-4pm. $5, $3 children 5-17, FREE children under 5. Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, 3 West Sunnyside Lane, Irvington, and Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 South Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson.  914-631-8200; www.hudsonvalley.org.

Milk and Cookies and More

   Musicians, jugglers, puppet shows — all are part of Milk & Cookies Playhouse’s monthly series of live shows designed to engage, entertain and teach young audiences. Now entering its third season under the direction of Jeffrey Friedberg (Rockland County’s own “Bossy Frog”), the program is geared towards ages 2-8, and held at Riverspace, the art and cultural center in Nyack. And, of course, milk and cookies are served after each show.

   Upcoming events include:

   Fall for Music (& Juggling), Saturday, November 15: Jen Slaw presents her family juggling show, combining grace, humor, skill, and beauty.  She is joined by the new kids’ rock band, The Elephant Stompers.

   Advance tickets and members, $9 adults, $7 children 2 and over; at the door, $12 adults, $8 children 2 and over. Shows at 10:30am.  Riverspace Arts in Nyack, 119 Main Street, Nyack. 845-348-1880. www.riverspace.org.  

Hop Over to Hopper House

   American artist Edward Hopper took inspiration from his hometown of Nyack and other nearby Hudson River towns. Kids can find their own artistic inspiration at Hopper House, the artist’s childhood home – and now a cultural center that features the work of emerging and established artists and juried theme shows in all styles and media. Fall programs for children through teens include School Vacation Art Workshops, Screenwriting Basics Workshop, Creating Your Own Small Works of Great Importance, as well as a weekly, Saturday morning hour of interactive music, song, and art play for families with children 2-5 years. The program features local entertainers Sukey Molloy & Friends. Infant siblings are welcome. Open 1-5pm Thursday-Sunday. Hopper House, 82 North Broadway, Nyack. 845-358-0774. www.HopperHouse.org.

Holiday Tradition

   Purchase Dance Corps will team up with guest artists from the New York City Ballet for Nutcracker ’08.  Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic tale and Peter Tchaikovsky’s epic music, Nutcracker ’08 brings together more than 100 children from the Westchester area and features choreography by the Purchase College Conservatory of Dance faculty.  Artistic Director Bettijane Sills is a Conservatory ballet faculty member and a former New York City Ballet dancer. December 5 at 7:15pm, December 6 at 2pm and 7pm, and December 7 at 1pm and 5pm. $25-$50. Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase. 914-251-6200; www.artscenter.org.

City-Quality Theater in Our Own Backyard

   The Emelin Theatre presents a complete season of theater, dance, and music for the entire family, with a large and diverse showcase of well-known musicians and artists, holiday shows and a film series, and the introduction of “Emelin Unplugged.” One highlight is the Paper Bag Players, celebrating with a special 50th anniversary production, December 27-28, 11am and 1:30pm.  Described as “side-splittingly funny and jam-packed with energy and pizzazz,” the players perform original material combining ragtime-style music with short plays and audience participation. $18, $13 children under 13. The Emelin Theatre, 153 Library Lane, Mamaroneck. 914-698-0098. www.emelin.org.

CiRcUs cIrCuS CircUS

   It’s that time of year — when the Big Apple Circus swings, bounces, catapults and juggles its way back to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park for its annual fall engagement. This year’s show, aptly titled Play On!, is big in the buzz department, boasting an eclectic score (soul, rock and classical), along with a whole bunch of totally awesome acts from around the world including — but certainly not limited to — comics, jugglers, trapeze artists, equine and canine performers, and a tight-wire diva to be reckoned with.  And (natch) Grandma the Clown (aka Barry Lubin), the show’s designated off-the-wall ambassador. Performances run October 23 through January 18 under the Big Top. For tickets, call 212-962-5471 or 888-541-3750 or visit www.bigapplecircus.org.  And don’t worry, the Big Top is heated in the cold weather.

Saturdays @ Symphony Space

   Upper West Side parents are known for their ability to sniff out first-rate kid activities, and not surprisingly, Symphony Space is at the top of their list. Their versatile roster of Saturday activities includes Just Kidding, Thalia Kids’ Book Club (ages 9-12), and Kids’ Films, all designed to tap into your kids’ passion for music, theater, books, dance and cinema.

    November’s programs are: folk-singer Elizabeth Mitchell (November 15); Randy Kaplan performing Broadway showstoppers, Tin Pan Alley classics, and Delta blues (November 22); and another feature from The International Children’s Film Festival (November 29).

   Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway on the corner of 95th Street. Prices vary, but generally clock in around $12 for kids and under $20 for adults. Just Kidding Club membership cuts the price for children to $8. 212-864-1414; www.symphonyspace.org.

Broadway Welcomes Shrek

   If your fantasy antennae are up, get ready to book your next family trip to “Far Far Away.” Shrek the Musical, based on William Steig’s classic book and the DreamWorks film that brought grumpy, groovy, gloriously gross Shrek to animated life, begins previews at the Broadway Theatre on November 8 (official opening: December 14). Brian d’Arcy James, last seen on Broadway in The Apple Tree, has the title role leading a cast custom-made for this irreverent fairytale: Tony winner Sutton Foster, fresh from Young Frankenstein, as Fiona, the princess with a big secret; Chester Gregory (Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry Baby) as Donkey (the role voiced by Eddie Murphy onscreen); and Christopher Sieber, who originated the role of Sir Dennis Galahad in Spamalot, as pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad.

   Insider info: Your kids can be among the first to preview the new ogre-centric musical by logging onto www.shrekthemusical.com, where they can also sign up for the show’s official newsletter.  

   Reservations can be made on the website or by phone: 212-239-6200. The Broadway Theatre is located at 1681 Broadway between West 52nd and 53rd Streets. Caveat: children under age 4 are not permitted in the theater.

Billy Elliot Leaps onto the Great White Way

   What kid can resist identifying with a brilliantly talented fish-out-of-water youngster whose love of dancing takes him out of a working class neighborhood – and boxing lessons – and into a world of self-expression and self-discovery? If you’ve seen the glorious Brit film on which the Elton John musical is based, you have some idea of the excitement the musical version of Billy Elliot can generate. This much anticipated London import arrived on Broadway with three newly discovered young actors alternating in the role of Billy. Previews began October 1 at the Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th Street; official opening is November 13, and trust us, tickets — even at high-end Broadway prices — will be a hot commodity for audiences of all ages. 212-239-6200; www.billyelliotbroadway.com.  

13: Not Just an Age, a New Broadway Musical

   Fans of High School Musical — tweens, young teens and parents who “get it” — will want to check out 13, A New Musical, the new show that opened October 5 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 W. 45th Street). It features a cast (and a band!) made up of real live teenagers and a storyline that transplants a sophisticated New York kid (know any of those?) into a small town in Indiana, where he must step up to the challenge of “fitting in.” 212-239-6200; www.13themusical.com.


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