TYKEs (Theatre Young Kids Enjoy) will continue its 16th season with “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley,” based on the “Flat Stanley” stories by Jeff Brown.
Show dates are 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Feb. 29 and March 7-8, and 2 p.m. on March 1. Performances take place in the Hart Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 1200 Edgewood Ave., Brighton. Tickets cost $20. The musical is recommended for ages 4 and older.
In Brown’s first book — published in 1964 — 10-year-old Stanley Lambchop becomes flattened, but not injured, when a bulletin board falls on him. Suddenly two-dimensional, Stanley embarks on a series of adventures, from being mailed to California in an envelope to preventing an art heist by posing as a wall painting.
TYKEs’ musical production features some of Stanley’s escapades, including flying as a kite, working with a Hollywood agent to make a surfing movie in Hawaii and the art-thief-capture in Paris. Stanley eventually returns home to his family and becomes “un-flat” with storytelling magic, a little help from the audience and a shooting star.
Brown died in 2003 after writing five “Flat Stanley” books, a series often described as a literary and pop cultural phenomenon. The series has continued with other authors and the character’s popularity was bolstered by the Flat Stanley Project, a pen pal initiative that encourages children to send their handmade paper “Stanleys” to counterparts in other parts of the globe.
The project was started in 1995 by third grade teacher Dale Hubert, who received the Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence.
Children mail a “flat visitor” to a famous person, school, relative, political figure or anyone of interest, and the recipient returns the picture along with a journal of activities and a small souvenir. Children encourage the recipient to “look after him, take him places, do interesting things with him, then mail him back to me with a journal of what he did with you.” Through the website (flatstanleyproject.com), children and families can add their text and images for viewers around the world.
TYKEs founder and director Freyda Schneider said audience members will relate to the show’s themes about the value of being different and the importance of family.
“‘Flat Stanley’ offers the inspiring message that heroes come in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “Because of the global phenomena that is the Flat Stanley Project, this show has the opportunity to connect children to each other and to literacy in a profound way. Everyone embraces this little flat cut-out, from Clint Eastwood to former President Obama. He’s been on the space shuttle, at the pyramids in Egypt and on top of Mount Everest.”
At each performance, TYKEs will provide Stanley templates for kids to color along with fill-in cover letters, “so that every TYKEs audience member can take part in this incredible worldwide activity,” Schneider said.
This show is performed by five local actors and directed by Sandi Henschel, with a score performed by TYKEs music director Jim Schmitt. The musical’s book was written by Timothy Allen McDonald, who also wrote the music and lyrics with Stephen Gabriel, Jonathan Waller and David Weinstein.
TYKEs’ 16th season ends with “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on April 13-18, followed by the KidStage summer theater camp on July 6-Aug. 28. Call (585) 461-2000 or visit jccrochester.org/tykes for information.