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Friday, January 25, 2013

BAMfamily: It's so much more than fun and games

by Jessica Goldschmidt

The BAMfamily season has officially launched. The 15th Annual BAMkids Film Festival is glimmering on the horizon like the yearly jewel of family fun it is. And amid all the kiddie-centric excitement, you might not realize the sweat, blood, and tears that go into programming a season of children’s theater, film, dance, and music. I mean, it’s just kids' stuff, right?

To use a word all-too familiar to parents the world over: No. It’s not just kids' stuff. It’s a careful process of seeking out, curating, scheduling, and presenting the best in international children’s theater.

Just ask Suzanne Youngerman, director of education and family programs and the brains behind our brand-new season of family-oriented live performance. “How do you take the BAM aesthetic and translate it into something for children?,” Suzanne asks. “I’m always looking. For years I’ve been looking, even though there hasn’t been much opportunity to actually book anything until now.”

But with the opening of the new BAM Fisher building, suddenly family programming at BAM has a home, a brand-new space all its own. Suddenly, the opportunity Suzanne has been waiting for all these years is right there, waiting.

Well, not exactly waiting. It still falls to Suzanne and our education department to find the right kind of programming. And searching for kids' shows that meet the BAM criteria of innovation, experimentation, and global scope can, it turns out, be surprisingly demanding. “Recently I went to an international showcase of children’s theater,” Suzanne told me last week. “Forty-nine shows in one weekend. Eight o'clock in the morning to 11 o'clock at night, literally. I’ve traveled to Europe, the US, Canada. I’ve gone to the Netherlands a couple times. Sweden.”

But such far-ranging travel and curatorial rigor is not for naught. The need for kid-friendly cultural experiences is alive and well in the five boroughs. Said one parent at the recent BAMfamily Launch Party, “I always feel guilty that I come to BAM and can’t bring my kids along. It’s so brave of you guys to take this on, shows for kids. I’ve already bought tickets for Kindur; I can’t wait.”

Kindur is an interactive piece from Italian-based Teatro Metastasio Stabile della Toscana—and it’s one of the season's shows that Suzanne is most excited about. “The children are a very active part of the creation of the work. They come down on the stage and, through infrared technology, trigger sounds and backdrops.”

“Kindur means sheep in Icelandic, so audience members, when they walk in, get a lambswool heart to pin to their chests. You don’t know why, you just get this thing. And then at some point early in the show, it lights up! And that’s your signal to come onstage. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but it’s this lovely surprise.”

More surprises await. In the meantime, check out the full listing of programs at And remember, as Suzanne pointed out, “This is really just the beginning.” We’ll keep you updated on family events here at BAM and elsewhere, so be sure to check back regularly and see what’s new!

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