Beauty and the Beast at the Puppet Co.
October 16, 2012
by Teresa Flaim
7300 MacArthur Blvd.
Glen Echo, MD 20812
Beauty and her family arrive at their country home (puppeteers are MayField Piper and Christopher Piper)
Photo by by Allan Stevens
I suggest arriving at Glen Echo Park 20 to 30 minutes before show time. Parking is plentiful and free, but the lot is located a good 5 to 10 minute walk from the theater depending on the speed of your party and how easily they are distracted by the surroundings. If you have younger children, you might want to use a stroller. From the parking lot, you walk on a bridge that passes over a creek with a small waterfall. We nicknamed it the "Echo" bridge because my kids try to make their voices echo while walking across. The theater is just beyond the historic Dentzel carousel which is closed for the season. Glen Echo Park has a playground that is mostly obstructed by the carousel. After picking up our "stickets", sticker tickets, at the box office, we sat down on one of the many nearby benches and ate a snack before entering the theater. No food or drink are allowed in the theater.
Seating begins 15 minutes before showtime and there are no assigned seats. However, you can wait inside the lobby and view puppets from previous productions on display. The seating area is sectioned off into three areas -- cushioned seats around the perimeter for parents and caregivers only and a large floor space for parents to sit with their children as well as a floor space immediately in front of the stage only for children. The theater is intimate but we never felt crowded.
Prior to the performance, the house manager reviews the house rules. Children are reminded to be quiet and remain seated on the floor. The theater gets dark when the show begins but there are lighted corridors by both exits. Patrons are encouraged to take a break in the lobby if necessary. The house manager remains for the entire presentation and maintains order including helping children sitting alone that later wanted to "find" their parents.
Those familiar with the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast will find the same basic story line but there are no dancing teapots in this rendition. In order to save her father's life, Beauty is forced to live with the Beast who was once a vain prince prior to a witch's spell. In time, the Beast learns to think of others and find trust and love in the heart of Beauty. The story is set in the grandness of the Czarist Russia which is shown in the scenery and beautiful costumes. Two puppeteers impressively manipulate the elegant half life-size marionettes. Along with the puppets and scenery, there is an animated mirror that serves to bridge scene changes between the merchant's home and the Beast's palace.
Beauty and the Beast was recommended for grades K through 6. It was not recommended for children under the age of 5. Our audience was mostly Pre-K through 1st graders and included some younger children. I brought along my children, almost-7-years-old and almost-5-years-old. I was a bit concerned that my almost-5-year-old might be scared by the Beast but he was not frightened. The Beast puppet resembled a lion dressed in human clothes. The animated mirror often featured what I referred to as a talking mask. I was concerned that my children might find it a little frightening. Neither one of them expressed that they were frightened during the performance. There were children younger than the recommended age but I did not see any of them upset. A small amount of fog was supposed to be used twice during the performance but on the day I attended the fog machine was not working.
The entire staff at the Puppet Co. are genuinely enthusiastic about using puppets to relay timeless stories to families. Their passion and talent are unmistakable. My children and I had a wonderful time. I have no doubt our family will return for future productions.
Good to Know
- Beauty and the Beast runs through November 16, 2012. Shows are on Thursdays and Fridays at 10am and 11:30am and Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30am and 1pm. ASL interpretation is Sunday, November 4, at 1pm. Run time is 40 minutes. Tickets are $10 each for adults and children ages 2 and up. They can be purchased online without a fee, at the box office or by phone.
- The show is recommended for grades K through 6.
- It takes a good 5 to 10 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the theater. Seating begins 15 minutes before show time and is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- Food and drinks inside the theater are prohibited.
- Bathrooms with changing tables are available inside the theater lobby.
- Photos are not allowed during the production, but there is a brief opportunity at the end of the show to get a picture of your child with typically at least one of the puppets and cast members.
- For children ages 0 to 4, the Puppet Co. offers "Tiny Tots" on select Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The shows are shorter, the lights stay on, and the doors stay open. Tickets are $5 per person (including babes-in-arms). Pre-purchases or no-obligation reservations are strongly recommended.
- The theater has a party room. Packages range from $255 to $295 depending upon the show. Price includes 20 tickets to a same day performance and four hours of room use.
- Puppetry classes are available for kids and adults. Please see the Puppet Co. website for further information.
Additional Glen Echo Information
- The Carousel is closed for the season and will reopen in May.
- The cafe, Brown Bag at Glen Echo Park, is open until the end of October. More information is available on their website.
- There are picnic tables in the picnic grove outside the Puppet Co. Tables are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.