One of the things that makes being a parent in Portland great is that there is so much to do with kids—not just things that you will sit and endure because your kids like it, but things that you and your kids actually enjoy together. And this weekend, we discovered one more: “Magic & Wonder: An Improvised Fairy Tale for Kids” at Deep End Theater. “Magic & Wonder” is a fun, creative improv show for kids that taps into their love of imagination with solid wit and timing, whimsical storytelling, and an engaging and warm troupe of performers.

At the beginning of the show, actors asked the audience for ideas for animals and names, and kids called out their answers, including “narwhal” and “crab.” Taking the audience suggestions, the improv troupe created a tale of a woman searching the ocean for her missing friend, Crab. It was a story of how four characters become friends, grow 400% more confident together, and defeat an evil ocean queen.

Before the show, I wondered if kids would be able to follow along with the plot, and if they would miss the sets, costumes or lighting of traditional plays. But the little ones in the audience were laughing, smiling and focused throughout the performance. Kids loved seeing adults on stage playing pretend, using simple props to create a world and then immersing themselves in that world with gusto and glee. In terms of complexity, the story was just right for kids to follow along, and there were positive messages for kids around friendship, confidence and teamwork.

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For adults, be ready for a solid, witty improv performance. Toward the end, I was laughing over a recurring joke around the narwhal’s tusk, and remembered that the performers hadn’t written or rehearsed a show about a narwhal—it was a suggestion for the performance made forty minutes ago.

No two shows are the same, so your story won’t be about a narwhal and a crab, but something totally unique and new based on what the kids in the audience call out. And that, too, is part of what makes this a great experience for kids—seeing adults take chances and have fun creating a performance on the spot.

If you’re inspired by the improv show, Deep End Theater offers classes for adults, and often have free workshops introducing their style of comedy. There is also a kids’ improv class in the works; check their website for more information.

If You Go

  • Shows often sell out, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets online before you head out.
  • It’s a small venue, so get there early for the best seats.
  • It may be helpful to talk about what improv is before you go and prep the kids to shout out their ideas when asked. Although the performers went over it, I could have prepped the kids more about what it means to be up on stage and invent on the fly.
  • Snacks and drinks (including adult beverages) for sale.
  • Street parking near the theater.

Magic & Wonder: An Improvised Fairy Tale for Kids!
Show is on break through the end of January and will start fresh in February
2-3 pm, doors open at 1:45
$5 per child, babies in arms are free. Suggested donation $5 for adults at the door.

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Michelle Carew

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