Imagination Stage, the metro DC region’s largest professional theater for young audiences and leader in positive youth development through the arts, has created an immersive experience for very young theatergoers ages 3-6 and their accompanying adults. Called Jungle Discovery, it runs at Imagination Stage’s building at 4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda from December 26, 2023 to January 14, 2024. Part theater piece, part interactive exhibit, Jungle Discovery is created and produced in partnership with Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore.
When participants enter the fantastical jungle installation, they meet two Jungle Guides, who encourage them to dress up as exotic creatures and explore the beautiful flora and fauna. Participants may choose to play in the jungle leaves, make flowers, contribute to the jungle soundscape, draw on the mirror mural, and/or make a warm nest in which to hide. The experience lasts 45 minutes, and includes a narrative throughline that provides surprises along the way.
Jungle Discovery has been developed in response to the great demand for Imagination Stage’s programming for young children. It is similar to Imagination Stage’s shows and creative drama classes for young children in that it is multi-sensory, gentle, creative, and interactive. However, it takes participation one step further and is set in a completely immersive environment — a fanciful jungle. Imagination Stage Founding Artistic Director Janet Stanford proclaims that it “redefines fun in a way that meets ‘the needs of now.’ Theatre programming everywhere is increasingly appealing to active participation, allowing audiences to contribute to their environment and interact with actors and other theatergoers in ways that actually have an impact on storytelling.” Sleep No More and Meow Wolf Company are examples of these experiences.
This kinetic, hands-on adventure empowers youngsters and elevates imaginative play. Stanford asserts that “hands-on activities are fun for all ages but essential for our youngest audience members. Sensory experiences, dressing up, touching textures, interacting with a soundscape, and making believe are natural ways of learning for children.”
Rachel Demme, Port Discovery’s Vice President for Education and Innovation, notes that “Port Discovery and Imagination Stage are natural partners. We both work to engage children and families through creative and explorative experiences that, in turn, spark learning and discovery.” For this innovative project, the organizations collaborated on designing a jungle space full of opportunities for activities like exploring the animals that live in that habitat. Demme continues, “we leveraged Port Discovery’s expertise in play, based on approaches to engaging kids and families, as well as our exhibit design experience with Imagination Stage’s vision and in-house team of talented designers.”
Tickets are $19.50 per person (no fees are added), and it is a 45-minute experience. Entrance times are as follows:
December 26-31, 2023 at 9:00, 10:30, and 12:30
January 4-5, 2024 at 10:00
January 6-7, 2024 at 9:00, 10:30, and 12:30
January 9-12, 2024 at 10:00
January 13-14, 2024 at 9:00, 10:30, 12:30
Tickets may be purchased at imaginationstage.org. Jungle Discovery will run at Port Discovery in spring of 2024.
ABOUT IMAGINATION STAGE
Imagination Stage, the DMV’s leader in youth development through the arts, is driven to build a generation of compassionate, collaborative young people who are capable of changing the world. Starting as an arts academy in Bethesda in the late 1970s, it has responded to the evolving “needs of now” over the last 43 years by expanding its reach throughout Montgomery County and Washington, DC. Since the pandemic, we see more than ever how the arts play an essential role in positive youth development. Children from every socio-economic group need experiences that teach empathy, demonstrate resilience, and inspire hope. Theater does just that. Beyond the classes, camps, and shows at its Bethesda location, Imagination Stage brings programming to locations throughout Montgomery County and DC through partnerships with Montgomery County Public Schools, DC Public Schools, and others. One example is its Theatre for Change programs. They serve teenagers, using theater productions and educational workshops to bridge cultural divides, lift up underrepresented voices, and explore complex social justice issues.