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Portage Park’s Filament Theatre Will Host Outdoor Creative ‘PlayDates’ For Kids This Summer

Children can learn about acting, stage makeup and costume design from local teaching artists starting Thursday.

Actors perform "James and the Giant Peach" at the Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., in 2015.
Dominick Maino
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PORTAGE PARK — Children looking to channel their creative side this summer can participate in a series of outdoor “play dates” put on by local teaching artists from the Filament Theatre in Portage Park.

Filament Theatre, which offered its classes online during the pandemic, is bringing songwriting, acting, stage makeup, costume design and more theater workshops to Dickinson Park, 4101 N. Lavergne Ave. The PlayDates summer program series kicks off 1 p.m. Thursday and runs once a week through July 29.

Each workshop, geared toward kids ages 5-12, will feature in-person instruction with teaching artists from the theater. Workshops offer a way for children to connect with others, tap into their creative spirit and learn or expand on theatrical techniques, said Julie Ritchey, Filament artistic director and founder.

The play dates are “a fun way to do classes with skills and topics that don’t need to be a full summer camp,” Ritchey said. “Kids can just jump in and take a deep dive without too much commitment.”

The theater offered park workshops last spring as a way to pivot during the pandemic and still connect with the community, Ritchey said. After seeing its success, she decided to bring it back this summer.

The scheduling and one-time classes also allow flexibility for families trying to get back to normal life looking for activities for their children, Ritchey said.

“The variety of classes [are] not just for kids who want to perform. If they have an interest in storytelling, performance, music, costume, there is something for everybody,” she said.

The first session will focus on songwriting. Participants will get to write an original song based on nature. Kids can also learn about fantasy makeup and body art, as well as how to make stage puppets and elaborate costumes. The theater will provide props for each workshop but asks that participants who want to make sock puppets bring their own old socks.

Class size is limited to 12 and advanced registration is required. Kids will spread out in the park for about an hour, and masks are mandatory.

Tickets are $15 per session and can be bought online. The theater also is offering a $50 PlayDate Pass, which contains four passes for any of the six workshops. For a complete list of workshops and timing, check the online schedule.

Ritchey said the teaching artists are excited to be offering in-person instruction after a rough year of remote learning, which was a huge hurdle for the company. The workshops are rooted in the theater’s mission of amplifying the perspectives and experiences of young people through the performing arts, she said.

“They’re about being alive and in the space together and at the same time, showcasing the inventiveness and resilience [of] all educators,” she said. “We’re excited to be back in person, sharing that energy and connection.”

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