Innovative Kids’ Theater Company Partners with Abrons Arts Center

Editor’s Note: Our contributor, Giacinta Frisillo recently spoke with Nellie Perera of the Abrons Arts Center, who is excited to be partnering with an innovative new children’s educational theater company, Trusty Sidekick. The company also took part in the Artists-in-Residence program at The Performance Project at The University Settlement this past season and produced the highly praised Shadow Play for a very young audience (ages 2-5).

“Finding a balance between education and the arts has always been a part of the mission at Henry Street Settlement,” says program director Nellie Perera, and ever since Henry Street’s recent partnering with up-and-coming theatre company Trusty Sidekick, the balance between the two has reached perfect alignment.

A character in Trusty Sidekick's "The Little One and the Sea of Letters." Photo by Leah Reddy.

When Perera met Jonathan Shmidt, artistic director of Trusty Sidekick at a conference, she found an ideal match for her arts-in-ed program. While talking, Shmidt recalled to her his own personal history with the Lower East Side: his grandfather having performed there years ago, along with the history of the settlement houses that “worked at the turn of the century to bring theater to young people.”

He thought it would be “great to use the space to do the same thing today.” And since Trusty Sidekick recently performed Shadow Play at neighboring University Settlement House where they developed the show for preschoolers in tandem with preschoolers, Perera thought a residency with Henry Street was in order and would bridge the gap between the two settlements.

The pint-sized audiences at University Settlement have raved over Shadow Play and the upcoming show at Henry Street is guaranteed to garner the same reaction. The Little One and the Sea of Letters is geared toward a slightly more mature crowd (kids ages 8 and up) and brings the history of the Lower East Side to life through both content and the context of the space itself.

As audience members journey through this tale of immigration, family, and the bonds that hold us together, they’ll be treated to a “challenging, cutting edge piece of work that appeals to the grown-up members of the family as much as to their little ones,” beams a very excited Perera. The “child in the audience becomes the hero and we’re the sidekick on the adventure” adds Shmidt, referring to the origins of his company’s name.

As Perera puts it, collaborating with a troupe as innovative and forward-looking as Trusty Sidekick is helping Henry Street and Abrons Arts Center “offer something educationally nourishing through the arts to families of the neighborhood.” No matter what your relationship to the Lower East Side, Little One will bring you closer to it and its ever-evolving role in New York City’s landscape, something the settlement house has worked toward since its earliest inception.

The Little One and the Sea of Letters is an original production for ages 8 and older.  The show will run weekends at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St.) April 21, 22 and 29 at 3:00pm.  April 28 at 7:00pm.  Click here for tickets.