Thanks to Henry Thoreau, the name "Walden" evokes the ultimate in natural tranquility. Of peace and quiet. Of simpler times. But the new, highly touted Walden Family Playhouse -- a professional children's theater the likes of which we haven't seen in these parts -- is anything but tranquil. The Walden's debut production, Rock Odyssey, a musical update of Homer's classic road tale, opens March 4, come hell, wailing sirens or high water -- and artistic director Douglas Love can hardly wait.
Love, a kids' to-do-book guru and creator of the Disney Channel's popular series Out of the Box, is all about inspiring kids 24/7, and the Walden, which is located in the United Artists complex at Colorado Mills, provides a tailor-made opportunity to do so. "We wanted to create something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country, and Denver seemed a great place to do it," Love says. "There's just enough of a base on both sides of the footlights here." He cites a perfect coming together of elements, from demographics to a healthy theatrical community, as reasons for choosing the Front Range setting to kick off his new adventure in live children's theater.
His hunch seems correct: Walden already boasts more than 1,000 subscribers and close to a 90 percent sellout rate for its daytime school matinee program, demonstrating clear community support for what Love says is Walden's prevailing target audience: families and kids. In particular, schoolkids will benefit from downloadable curriculum that has been established for teachers in conjunction with the productions.
"We want to offer exciting experiences for kids that are going to enrich their appreciation of live theater as well as the subject matter of every play that we do," Love explains. "It's not really my goal to just put on Snow Whiteor Cinderella, but to take ideas and classics, historical figures or wonderful stories and get kids excited about learning more about them." Rock Odyssey, with a rock-music score by Emmy Award-winning composer Billy Straus and magnificent costumes and sets, fills the bill perfectly. "We used to be able to get away with cardboard sets and costumes from your mother's attic," says Love. "But kids are too sophisticated now. This will be like the original action adventure." The by-product, he adds, is that kids engaged by outstanding live theater today will form the supportive adult audiences of the future.
Love predicts an all-around hit for the new playhouse. "Colorado is going to be impressed," he says without compunction. And while he knows audiences are going to love it, "it's our actors whom I really envy," he says. "Because they're the ones who are going to be able to witness the audiences."
Rock Odyssey runs through March 30; for information, call 720-932-7578 or log on to www.waldenfamilyplayhouse.com.