Everyone should get to experience the joy of live theater.
That’s a perspective held dearly at the Wild Swan Theater in Ann Arbor, a family-friendly theater currently in its 40th season.
“When we started this theater in 1979 we felt like the theater for kids was really expensive,” says Sandy Ryder, co-artistic director at the Wild Swan Theater who opened the theater with Hilary Cohen. “We felt like the audiences weren’t able to see super-great theater for kids that was also affordable.”
Other options for families were usually large touring companies or children’s theaters with kids as actors.
“We wanted to make the best theater possible, period, and to make that theater work for families,” Ryder says. “So adults and kids could see a play together and everybody (could) enjoy it.”
All of the productions at the Wild Swan Theater are family-friendly – with varying recommended age groups – and many of the talented actors, dancers and composers come from the University of Michigan.
“We try to make it really imaginative and creative, the very best theater we can make. All of the people who work on our shows are all professionals, and everyone is paid,” she says.
All performances are “shadow interpreted” for those who are hearing impaired and audio-description is available for guests with visual disabilities.
“We’ve always had a commitment to accessibility since we started. We want everyone to have access to the show,” Ryder says. “Everything has the American Sign Language component. It’s almost more like you’re seeing a bilingual play – you’re seeing it with sign and hearing it in English. You don’t have to look away to look at your signer.”
Affordability is another important factor in making the theater accessible.
“We try to keep the tickets as low as we possibly can, so a family can afford to come,” she says.
The Wild Swan Theater is gearing up for a full season of kid-friendly productions for 2018-19. Here’s a look at the shows offered this season.
- A Honey Pot of Pooh Stories: 10 a.m. Oct. 25, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 26, 11 a.m. Oct. 27. Aimed at ages 3-8.
- *A Christmas Carol: 10 a.m. Dec. 5-6, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 p.m. Dec. 8-9. Best for grades 3-12.
- Owl’s Winter: 10 a.m. Jan. 24, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Jan. 25, 11 a.m. Jan. 26. Good for ages 3-8.
- Under the African Sky: 10 a.m. Feb. 21, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 11 a.m. Feb. 23. Aimed at ages 4-10.
- *Shipwrecked!: 10 a.m. March 7, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. March 8, 2 p.m. March 9. Best for grades 3-8.
- Jack and the Beanstalk: 10 a.m. March 20-21, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. March 22, 11 a.m. March 23. Good for ages 4-10.
- *Charlotte’s Web: 10 a.m. May 1-2, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. May 3, 2 p.m. May 4-5. Aimed at grades K-5.
Regular series tickets are priced at $10 for kids and seniors (60-plus) and $12 for adults. Masterpiece Series productions (marked with * above) are priced at $12 for kids and seniors and $15 for adults. Discounts are available for groups and season ticket orders.
Tickets are usually available at the door, Ryder says, but shows do sometimes sell out, so get yours online in advance to secure your seat.
The Wild Swan Theater’s studio and office is located at 6175 Jackson Road, Suite B, in Ann Arbor.
Season performances are held at Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, located at 4800 E. Huron River Drive in Ann Arbor. The theater also tours its shows to local schools.
This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.
Photo courtesy of Wild Swan Theater.