State Theatre New Jersey

Education

Milk & Cookies Returns for 2019-20 Season

As our 13th season of State Theatre New Jersey’s Milk & Cookies series got underway, I paused a moment to look back on the program’s accomplishments over the past dozen years. By my (very rough) calculation, we’ve given out about 10,000 cookies and 7,000 cartons of milk. More importantly, we’ve welcomed more than 17,000 children and their families to the joy of live performance.

I dimly recall the first Milk & Cookies performances, back when it was strictly a storytelling program presented in the Heldrich Room (the theater’s opulent upstairs lobby). I think we put down masking tape over the carpet to mark out the “stage.” We had three events that year, attended by not quite 600 people. Families loved the program from the start: the cozy, intimate setting, the immensely engaging and talented storytellers, and—of course—the free milk and cookies for the kids after the show.

Milk & Cookies has come a long way since then! Over time, it expanded to six programs each year, and started featuring music and dance as well as storytelling. Last season, we moved the shows out of the lobby and into our new studio space, with a proper stage, theatrical sound and lighting equipment, and brand-new, comfortable chairs. We also started designating the noon Milk & Cookies shows as Sensory-Friendly Performances, where we make some small adjustments to create a comfortable theater environment for people on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities.

This year’s Milk & Cookies series features eight events overall (two more than usual), and an even more eclectic mix of performers. The series got off to a great start in October with storyteller Julie Pasqual.

As always, Milk & Cookies features lots of fabulous kindie rock. Next up we have The Bilingual Birdies (November 2, 2019), who will have the audience singing and dancing along, and learning some words in Spanish, too. Making their State Theatre debut, the New York City band City Stomp (December 7, 2019) celebrates our multicultural world, performing traditional folksongs with a modern edge. Fans big and little will be happy to welcome back mr. RAY (February 8, 2020), followed later in the season by Joanie Leeds (May 16, 2020), a perennial favorite at the State Theatre.

For those who prefer their music on the classical side, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s BRAVO Percussion Ensemble (March 7, 2020) offers a fun, interactive introduction to an incredible array of instruments—and not just drums. Who knew that orchestra percussionists get to play fun instruments like rainsticks, whips, and even bird whistles?

We have our first-ever Milk & Cookies circus show: Mr. Pennygaff’s Cirkus Sideshow Spectacular (January 11, 2020). Among his many talents, Mr. Pennygaff (a.k.a. Keith Nelson, of New York’s Bindlestiff Family Cirkus) can juggle, balance, spin plates, keep you laughing, and even show you how to do a few tricks.

Storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston (April 25, 2020) is someone I’ve been wanting to bring to the State Theatre for years. She’s a superstar of the storytelling world; among other places, she’s performed at Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, and in concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Beyond these lofty venues, Charlotte brings her stories (often accompanying herself with African musical instruments) to schools, libraries, and smaller places across the country. I can’t wait for her State Theatre debut!

And, of course, along with the crowd-pleasing performances, there’s still milk (plain or chocolate) and cookies (chocolate chip) for the kids. See you soon at the State Theatre!

By Lian Farrer, Vice President of Education & Community Engagement

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