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Imagine U theatre artists take the show to families at home

Season two of “Life Now” for the National Theatre D.C. premieres Oct. 9

Northwestern has long been an innovator in theatre for young audiences, training both artists and educators and producing the ever-popular Imagine U stage productions. Now more children can experience Imagine U, as theatre presenters adjusted to the pandemic with online performances.

For the second consecutive year, The National Theatre of Washington D.C. has enlisted Imagine U’s creators to present six new “Life Now” episodes for “Saturday Morning Live!” For four decades, “Saturday Morning Live!” At The National has treated children and their families to interactive performances that inspire the mind through play, laughter and learning. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancelation of live performances, the program moved online to provide free access to children everywhere.  

The first episode of the new “Life Now” series by Imagine U will debut Saturday, Oct. 9. Each episode includes storytelling suited for all ages in the form of music, interviews, movement, crafts, poetry and puppetry.

Mia Navarez (‘20), is part of the creative ensemble. Nevarez said during her time at Northwestern, she always enjoyed performing theatre for young audiences, but also appreciates the wide range of audiences the series can reach. Nevarez said the team constantly strives to create inclusive, accessible theatre for viewers of all backgrounds.

“I just really love performing for children and performing for these really inclusive audiences,” Nevarez said. “And I love telling stories that children can relate to  — but also their parents or any adults that are with them. These are beautiful stories that anybody can relate to because everybody, at some point, has been a child.”

The “Life Now” creative team is led by Imagine U’s founder and artistic mentor Lynn Kelso, creative director Amanda Tanguay and fourth-year student Ezri Claire Killeen, as the music supervisor and director. The creative ensemble includes MFA directing candidate Alvin Chan, Ryan Foreman (‘20), Hannah Hakim (‘20) and Pablo David Laucerica (‘20).

Tanguay said the first year of the series aimed to address the question of “What is life now?” within the backdrop of a global COVID-19 pandemic. The new installment of “Life Now” continues to address the ways in which we approach a changing world.

“We are still dealing with the pandemic, but also we’re seeing changes that we're returning back to things,” said Tanguay. “We wanted to be aware of where our country is right now and lots of different aspects of life now.”

“Life Now” by Imagine U schedule

Oct. 9: “Kindness”
Host Alvin and four familiar storytellers explore the many ways to create a kinder tomorrow in “Kindness.” By looking for opportunities to secretly help others, children and families alike will discover how to treat everything with respect - from the littlest of bugs to the tallest of trees. Watch to learn how to craft a unique card and be proud of even the smallest of victories. Special guests are joining to share what they’re grateful for, and by the end of the episode, viewers will want to pass the kindness on.

Oct. 23: “Home”
In “Home,” viewers will discover the importance of creating a space that is special and important to those who live there. Audiences will craft a welcoming wreath and sing a song about what home feels like. Featured guests will join audiences to share what home means to them, and Leo’s friend Lily will help make his room feel a little more familiar. Over the course of an episode, children and families will begin to understand that although the Earth is big, home is where the heart is.

Nov. 6: “Stepping In”
Go “Stepping In” to new adventures with “Life Now!” Audiences will take a musical journey up a mountain, learning about how shoes can tell the story of where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Imagine U storytellers will share their favorite footwear, and a special guest will also reflect on his special shoes which help him to create music. Finally, viewers will build a treasure box and learn about achieving big goals in small steps. The episode explores taking a walk in another person’s shoes and starting to see things from a different perspective.

Each “Life Now” episode will premiere at 8:30 a.m. CST and will be available for later viewing on Facebook Live and The National Theatre Foundation’s YouTube Channel.

The series will continue into the spring with three more episodes premiering Apr. 2, Apr. 16 and Apr. 30, 2021. 

For many years, Northwestern University’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Performing Arts Center has presented Imagine U, a popular performance series geared toward families with young children. 

The Imagine U Storytime series launched in spring of 2020, as Northwestern theatre students, faculty and alumni sought a way to share stories for young audiences and their families to enjoy from home. Watch all the Imagine U Storytime episodes on the Wirtz Center YouTube channel.