Four reasons families should see Redmoon Theater's Winter Pageant this weekend

In a season when holiday shows abound, it can be challenging to pick out the top must-see performances for your family to squeeze into your busy schedules. To help make it easier for you, I'm going to put it out there and recommend the Redmoon Theater's 2013 Winter Pageant. And, encourage you to go see it this weekend - before it's too late.

The Winter Pageant has a limited run, with only five more shows before it closes on Sunday, December 22. But, not to fear. There's one show on Friday at 7 pm, two shows on Saturday at 4 and 7 pm, and two shows on Sunday at 1:30 and 4 pm.

So, why does the Redmoon Theater's Winter Pageant deserve a coveted spot on your list of must-see performances this busy holiday season? I'll break it down for you - with pleasure. Here are my top four reasons why Redmoon Theater's 2013 Winter Pageant is a must-see show for families this holiday season:

1. It's family friendly and utterly delightful. It will engage your little ones - and make you happy, too.


Pigeon protects the light from the Raven Skeleton Army. (Photo: Al Zayed)

I'll admit that after a long day at school, our two sons weren't too anxious to sit through any show. But, my husband and I quickly changed their tune after selling them on all of the things that make the Winter Pageant a great, family-friendly experience. A clown artist, aerialist, rock band, dancers, machines, elaborate costumes and masks. We sold them on the show - in 30 seconds flat.

Each scene had a new effect using sound, light and other imaginative elements (I don't want to spoil any surprises!), which kept our sons entertained the whole way through the 50-minute performance. Our sons kept moving their bodies and heads, anxiously trying to take it all in - even if that meant elbowing the other one in the side to get an even better view. They didn't want to miss a thing.

Our sons never asked us if the show was almost over, and they clapped enthusiastically at the end of it. And, the same can be said of me and my husband, too.

2. It's a reflection of the true diversity of Chicago - and a big part of what makes this city so great.


Phoenix on The Ladder Machine. (Photo: Al Zayed)

I have to admit that I was first drawn to the Winter Pageant solely by the diverse performer line up. I couldn't wait to see the hip-hop dancers of The Happiness Club, Indian dancers of Kalapriya Dance, Southeast Asian dancers of Indonesian Dance of Illinois, belly dancers of Pineapple Dance Studio, and Middle Eastern dance artist Erika Ochoa all on one stage together.

During the performance, the eastern and western dancers unite in a cohesive, visual tapestry of sight, movement and sound, and the effect is incredible.

I am proud that Chicago is home to an amazing caliber of dance studios, and that they have the opportunity to come together to delight audiences in a vibrant ethnic neighborhood like Pilsen. But, the diversity found in the Winter Pageant isn't just about the eastern and western dancers. It's also the diversity of talents. In addition to the dancers, the performance includes The San Andreas Fault (a surf-rock band), ariel artist Helena Reynolds, and Mexico City-based clown artist Cordova Hernandez - in addition to the full Redmoon Ensemble.

3. It's spellbinding. The story is moving, engaging and relatable, the performers are fantastic, and the special effects are awe inspiring and imaginative. You will leave happy and upbeat - just perfect for the holidays.


Pigeon and Dove in the underwater shadow puppet show. (Photo: Al Zayed)

The Winter Pageant presents a new original myth inspired by the poem "The Conference of the Birds" by Farid ud-Din Atta. Through masks, machines, shadow puppets, song and dance, the performers tell the story of bravery and light within darkness - apropos for this winter season.

There isn't any dialogue in the performance. Rather, a narrator, Redmoon ensemble member Brandon Moorehead, sets the stage for each scene of the performance, and then turns it over to the dancers, musicians and other performers to bring the story to life - and captivate us all. Moorehead takes a bit more of the spotlight at the end of the show - and gets you up and dancing in your seat.

The myth-like tale itself is an easy one to follow, with subtle yet important themes woven through out it, and an ending that kids will easily understand and appreciate.

4. It's accessible for all. The Redmoon Theater brings you up close to, and fully immerses you in, the performance. And, you can meet the performers after the show.

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Guests swing away before the start of the show.

The doors open a half an hour before the Winter Pageant, and you are encouraged to come early to create your own puppet, try out the theatre's swings (yes, swings!), catch a glimpse of some of the performers, and get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

For the most part, seating is on raised bleachers, and every seat seems to be a good one. Your kids can choose to watch the show up close from cushions placed at the base of the bleachers (with or without you next to them).

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Two young guests try out a prop after the show.

After the show, you can come down onto the performance floor and speak with the musicians, dancers and other performers who will happily shake hands, show you some of their props and machines, and pose for photos. You also can enjoy an after-show dessert courtesy of Eli's Cheesecake - another Chicago classic.

Pilsen is a quick trip from downtown Chicago. Redmoon Theater is located right off the 18th Street exit of the Dan Ryan Expressway. An added plus is the free street parking available on Jefferson and 21st Streets. For anyone taking the CTA "L" train, the theater is just 1/2 mile west of the Cermak Chinatown Red line stop.

If you've never been to a Redmoon Theater performance, the 2013 Winter Pageant is be the perfect excuse for you to finally make it there. Just hurry!

For more recommendations on stores, restaurants and cultural institutions to visit while you're in Pilsen, please check out my post on spending the afternoon in the neighborhood with your family.

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