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Wirtz Center’s ‘Imagine U Storytime’ continues

Northwestern artists share original works and new takes on old stories with young audiences

Imagine U Storytime's adaptation of 'Jungle Book' features shadow puppets by Skye Strauss
Imagine U Storytime's adaptation of 'Jungle Book' features shadow puppets by Skye Strauss

Familiar tales from long ago and student-created stories will debut Oct. 25 to Nov. 15 with the latest installment of “Imagine U Storytime,” the online storytelling series presented by the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts and the department of theatre at Northwestern University.

The series includes an innovative approach to Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” as well as a personal reflection of “The Apple Tree’s Discovery,” a story based on a Jewish folktale. Other student performed stories include “The Thread of Yarn,” an original piece about the powerful connections of family and “The Elephant in the Zoom,” a story told with puppets that celebrates identity and friendship. 

The weekly video series airs weekly on the Wirtz Center YouTube channel. New videos are posted at 6 p.m. on Sundays and remain online for streaming. 

“Imagine U Storytime” began in April of 2020 as a way to connect community members through the arts during the global pandemic.

According to Rives Collins, department chair of theatre at Northwestern’s School of Communication, the series aims to provide engaging content for families to enjoy together at home, as well as highlight the talented students, faculty and alumni in the theatre for young audiences training program.

“It has been remarkable to see what our story artists have created to delight young audiences,” said Lynn Kelso, Imagine U founder and creative mentor. “We are very excited to return to continue to share these artistic gifts with our families in these challenging times.”

Upcoming “Imagine U Storytime” programs include: 

"The Jungle Book"
Sunday, Oct. 25, 6 p.m. CDT

When Bhagira the Panther found an abandoned child, Mowgli, in the middle of the dangerous Seoni forest, he didn't understand the consequences of his kind heart. The story follows Mowgli's adventures with the creatures of the jungle as well as his struggle for safety from the ferocious tiger, Sher-Khan. He encounters snakes, elephants, monkeys and bears who teach him about the meaning of family and bravery. Theatre doctoral student Skye Strauss takes inspiration from the Rudyard Kipling tale and Disney's re-telling, for this story featuring enthralling shadow puppets as well as a lesson for making your own. Also featured are Guthrie (’24), Hayden Sikora (’24), Robbie Matthew (’24), Cora Maelea Tan (’24), Connor Martin (’24) and Mantra Radhakrishnan (’24).

"The Apple Tree’s Discovery"
Sunday, Nov. 1, 6 p.m. CST 

Valen-Marie Santos (’21) shares her own interpretation of "The Apple Tree's Discovery," a story based on a Jewish folktale. A young apple tree dreams of having stars on her branches and asks God to fulfill her request. Santos shares the story’s special connection with a childhood mentor and the story’s theme of finding the "star" within yourself.

"The Thread of Yarn" by Alex Manaa
Sunday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m. CST 

From the modern, yet rural streets of Egypt, to the buzzing cities of the U.S., one thread tied Alex Manaa’s (’22) family together over the oceans and over the years – their love of cats. This original story told by the author, tells how that passion unified them.  

"The Elephant in the Zoom"
Sunday, Nov. 15, 6 p.m. CST

It’s been a while since these three puppet pals have caught up, and they have SO much to talk about! Over a video call, they check in, and after a disappointing day in Zoom class, the friends help one another break down a hurtful incident. Together, they learn to stand up for themselves and their identities. The most powerful way they can find is by celebrating their own names with pride. Join Gabriela Furtado Coutinho (’23), Mark Berry (’23) and Rachel Hilbert (’23) in standing together, even when apart!  

The story was created especially for “Imagine U Storytime” by Northwestern’s own Purple Crayon Players, and written by Coutinho, Arella Flur (’23), Jonathan Van De Loo (’23) and Olivia Escousse (’23).

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