The 29th Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival has announced its spring line-up. Gracing the festival brochure cover is a princely young lad wearing a cape, medieval shield and a golden horned crown.
Appropriately, this year’s theme for the five-day event held in downtown St. Albert from June 1 to 5 is Where Kids Rule.
“And they do,” laughs festival director Nancy Abrahamson. “At home, who rules the roost? And they rule the festival too.”
By sheer coincidence, St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT), one of the main stage acts, is emphasizing the power of munchkins with a Camelot musical titled What a Knight. It regales the adventures of Watt Cobblers, a young boy kicked out of Knight School. He reluctantly becomes Merlin’s apprentice. When Excalibur is lost and King Arthur’s daughters are kidnapped, his dreams of adventure and gallantry are rekindled.
For the past year, programmer Troy Funk has viewed and booked a variety of acts from numerous disciplines — theatre, dance, music, song, clowning, acrobatics, storytelling, painting, puppetry, magic, juggling and Hula Hoop.
Organizers are expecting about 55,000 visitors to the makeshift tent city with 78 shows from 10 main stage acts representing five countries — Belgium, Taiwan, Scotland, Vietnam and Canada. An additional 20 site activities and assorted roving artists will entertain along the banks of the Sturgeon River.
In addition to the children’s theatre, the local culture is embodied through Asani, an Edmonton Aboriginal women’s trio that blends the musical traditions of First Nations with jazz, folk and blues.
Also on the Canadian radar is At Nightfall, a dance about a shoemaker who finds himself in a magical water forest; Blou, a rousing ambassador of Acadian music; and Splash and Boots, an interactive duo with catchy harmonies and comedic skits.
With two offerings, Scotland looks to the past’s Greek mythology in Jason and the Argonauts and into the future with The Man Who Planted Trees, a warm-hearted ecological journey. “It’s beautiful storytelling and beautiful puppets,” Funk says.
Also from Europe comes Belgium’s Ha Ha Ha, a circus theatre performance in the old Russian style with clowns in baggy burlap, over-sized shoes and red noses. “It’s stuff people relate to.”
Asia is also well represented with Vietnam’s Khac Chi Bamboo Music, a charming voyage into Oriental music, and flip artists from the National Acrobats of Taiwan. “They are part of a school in Taiwan and travel all over the world.”
Abrahamson has the final word. “I’m really excited about the line-up. Troy has done an amazing job and we have a wonderful, truly talented creative team that pulls all the pieces together.”
Early bird tickets purchased before May 1 are $9 for adults and $7.50 for children two to 17 years. After May 1 prices are $10 and $8.50, respectively. Tuesday is seniors’ day and tickets are two-for-one, available at the Arden box office at 780-459-1542 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.