That's enough evidence to convince Love that he's reaching his goal of introducing young audiences to theatrical experience -- and then making sure they stay interested. Since Walden raised the curtain less than two months ago, tens of thousands of metro-area kids have seen Walden shows, both with school groups and with their families, many of them attending with tickets subsidized by businesses participating in the theater's Gift of Imagination program. For Love, it's the proverbial dream come true.
There's a reason, of course, that shows like Merlin are eliciting such a grand response: They're good shows, with high-profile casts and Walden's touted state-of-the-art sets. And Merlin, which ends Sunday, May 4 (the Japan-inspired Kabuki Gift opens next, on May 13), has proven itself a particular crowd favorite. An unexpectedly high volume of audience interaction has been inspired by the tale of a magician who's lost his powers and the twelve-year-old girl, Abigail, who saves his butt. "She uses her love of science and nature to get them in and out of scrapes," explains Walden's Ronda Berkeley. "And it's a sort of a girl-empowerment thing. It's just a hoot when the kids in the audience side with the girl and shout out encouragement." It helps to have a main character played by a real twelve-year-old girl (actually, two young actresses, Leigh Joseph and Sarah Zanotti, both of whom were selected during a talent search in the Mills food court). "It's like the audience members are seeing themselves on stage," notes Berkeley, adding that the play appeals to a much broader demographic than just preteen females.
Last call: If you haven't yet experienced Walden's unique brand of magic, performances of Merlin's Apprentice are at 10 and noon weekdays and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the United Artist Theatre Complex at Colorado Mills, 14500 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood; tickets are $14 to $16. Call 720-932-7578 or log on to www.waldenfamilyplayhouse.com. -- Susan Froyd
Dance Week springs forth
Dance teacher Gwen Bowen, a fifty-year veteran of the art of helping young bodies bend like willows in the wind, admits she's a little crazy: Nobody in her right mind would agree to coordinate a performance that involves approximately 25 dance troupes from around the state, including school groups and amateur companies. But this is a labor of love -- and a bit more. Sponsored by the Arts for All organization, the National Dance Week Celebration, which takes place tonight at 7 at South High School, 1700 East Louisiana Avenue, is Bowen's way of promoting an unfunded art form and perhaps opening up avenues for wannabe dancers who face economic roadblocks. Bowen's been in their shoes: "I never had a lot of money as a kid," she says. "But when you put on a leotard, nobody knows if you have 25 cents or a million dollars. Everybody ought to have the joy of dance." Admission is $3 at the door; call 303-722-1206. -- Susan Froyd
What grownup kid doesn't remember holing up in some secret hideaway to crack open the latest adventures of Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, Conan the Barbarian or whoever? (Fill in the blank depending on the era and setting.) Nothing was sweeter. And today, those moments of pleasure don't have to be stolen: It's Free Comic Book Day, a national promotion for which many major (and not so major) comic-book publishers have issued special-edition comics to be given away -- that's free -- at participating stores across the country. That includes most Front Range comic-book vendors, where such titles as Robocop, Transformers, Way of the Rat, Skinwalker and even perennials like Batman and Archie & Friends will be handed out by the hundreds to anyone who asks. Is this heaven on earth or what? Support your local comic-book store: For details, log on to www.freecomicbookday.com. -- Susan Froyd
Kids shoot the darnedest things: landscapes, portraits, cool stuff, their own thumbs. Budding shutterbugs ages eleven to fourteen are the focus of Camps for Kids at WWA, a series of summer workshops hosted by Working With Artists, a local organization that offers photography programs for all ages, as well as master classes, lectures and salons. Camera-carrying kids can set their sights on two week-long camps -- PhotoFUNdamentals, a basics primer offered in both June and July, and GoingDIGITAL, slated for August -- or take part in Photo-Op Saturdays, four fun in-the-field training sessions scattered throughout the summer. All classes are from 9 to 1 daily at 1836 Logan Street (or out and about on location); tuition is $125 per camp. Call 303-477-5128 or 303-607-9813, or log on to www.workingwithartists.org for information. -- Susan Froyd