Dayton Children’s Family Series: From acrobats to musicals

Dinosaurs come to town Feb. 2.

For Maria Gallenstein it was all about spending quality time with her great-nieces and great-nephew and exposing them to the arts.

Gallenstein, who grew up in Dayton and now lives in Kettering, has fond memories of going to the theater as a child. “We didn’t go very often and when we got to do things downtown in Dayton, it was a real treat,” she remembers. “As I got older, I became more interested in theater, in art, in Dayton’s Broadway series.” She wanted to introduce her young relatives to the kind of arts experiences that she enjoys so much.

Dayton Children’s Family Series turned out to be the perfect way to accomplish all of her goals. For the past eight years, Gallenstein has been purchasing tickets to the live shows and taking whichever children are available on a particular day. That’s true this year as well; she’s bought three tickets for each of the upcoming presentations: “Dinosaur World Live” on Feb. 2. Schoolhouse Rock” on March 5-6 and Peking Acrobats on March 16. Due to COVID, the production of “Madagascar The Musical,” originally scheduled for May 3, has been canceled.

The popular series, now in its 35th year, brings touring family-friendly productions to Dayton stages. Many are geared to children as young as three; most are an hour in length, many are interactive. Five years ago, sensory-friendly performances were added to the mix and have been a great option for families with autistic children and others who need a judgment-free experience at the theater where there’s a reduction of loud or jarring sounds, the absence of flashing or strobe lighting on stage, modification of house lights during the performances and all patrons are free to vocalize or move around the theater.

The live productions have also been a blessing for Jennifer Dietsch of Fairborn and her 12-year-old son, Brandon, who has cerebral palsy.

“Because of his disability, Brandon is not a TV or screen kid,” explains his mom. “We took him to ‘Sesame Street Live’ many years ago and he loved every bit of the experience–the big theater and being around other kids where he was one of the gang and there wasn’t such a difference in skill set. He was just absolutely entranced. We’ve been going to live theater ever since.”

Dietsch says her son has always loved music and dancing and loves to read all sorts of books. “The shows have been a different way to bring the books alive,” she says. “They are so culturally diverse.”

Meet Gary Minyard

As Dayton Live’s vice president of education and engagement, Gary Minyard has been programming the series for the past eight years. His goal, he says, is to provide a variety of genres, stories, themes and styles.

" We have slowly been adding more shows to our family series offerings over the years,” notes Minyard. “That means we not only have performances on Saturdays throughout the year, but also on other days of the week. We know families have tight schedules and so opening up the calendar has allowed Dayton Live to offer more variety for everyone.”

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He’s especially excited this season to bring “Schoolhouse Rock Live” to town. “This show is a fun, fast-paced journey through a well-known story featuring some characters we all know and love,” Minyard says. “The tour is from Childsplay, Inc. out of Tempe, Arizona and their award-winning productions are always entertaining. We’re also offering a sensory-friendly performance of ‘Schoolhouse Rock.’ "

Credit: Tim Trumble

Credit: Tim Trumble

Gallenstein says it’s not only her nieces and nephews who love the special outings; she does too. “In the past, we’ve made a day of it. I pick them up, we have lunch at Uno’s where they get to make their own pizza, we enjoy the show and then we have dessert and they make their own sundaes.” Most recently, she took her 8-year-old nephew to “‘The Hip Hop Nutcracker” in December and says he talked about it for days afterwards.

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Although Saturday shows are always convenient, Gallenstein thinks the quality of the productions has improved since Dayton Live added weekday performances. " We saw ‘Dinosaur Live’ a few years ago when it was here and my niece and nephew loved it.”

At the moment, they’re all looking forward to the “Peking Acrobats” because one of the children is a gymnast. The talented group performs daring maneuvers atop a precarious pagoda of chairs and also does trick-cycling, precision tumbling, juggling, somersaulting and gymnastics. Live musicians play traditional Chinese instruments.

Says Minyard: “I’m always looking for high quality products and things that feel new and present. We’re looking at providing a variety of experiences for families.”

HOW TO GO:

What: “Dinosaur World Live”

When: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 2

Where: Victoria Theater, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

Tickets: $29 Call (937) 228-3630 or go to

daytonlive.org/family

What: “Schoolhouse Rock Live”

When: 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday, March 5 . A sensory-friendly performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6

Where: Victoria Theater

Tickets: $18-30. The sensory-friendly performance is $20.

What: Peking Acrobats

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16

Where: Victoria Theater

Tickets: $38

Accessibility: Sign interpretation and/or audio description available upon request. Please let the ticket agent know at least two weeks before the performance if you would like either of these services when you order your tickets from Dayton Live.

Safety: Masks required for patrons 6 and over.

If you feel COVID-19 conditions make it unsafe for you to attend a performance/event in one of theDayton Live venues, please contact us at (937) 228-3630 or tickets@daytonlive.org no later than one week prior to your performance to discuss your options.

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