Like those dreaded words "family fun," family theater should be approached with caution, but that is by no means a deal breaker for any potential theater excursion. In a time when even a pack-a-day smoker can hold his breath through the duration of any single uninterrupted shot on children's television, it's vital to elongate the ever-waning national attention span of our little ones.
But that's not the only reason to show up at the Pikes Peak Center on Tuesday. Harlem is the second of the Kennedy Center's Imagination Celebration family theater series. It's origin, of course, is the northern Manhattan neighborhood that's produced and/or nurtured writers and poets including, but not limited to, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and hip-hop pioneers The Sugar Hill Gang and DJ Herc. (Oh, and some cracker named Bill Clinsomething recently set up shop there too.)
Harlem is based on the poetry collection of the same name by Walter Dean Myers, a Harlem-based children's author. The play utilizes a vocalist, a storyteller and a jazz quartet to impart the history of one of our nation's most famous neighborhoods.
If that's not enough, show up early for a block party with local talents like Voices of Joy, Rev. Kirk Patrick Grant, poetry readings from Meadows Park Community Center and dance demonstrations from the '20s and '30s. On the mezzanine, kids can make artwork about their own neighborhoods. The only thing missing will be the water spewing out of a jacked-open fire hydrant and the distant echo of sirens, smoke and the smell of the city.