Dance, Sing, Play: Children's Theatre Fest Is Creative Fun

May 23, 2018

Kids can explore their creative side at the 13th Annual Memphis Children's Theatre Festival
Credit Voices of the South

Live music, a silent auction, and a petting-zoo musical are all on the line-up for the 13th Annual Memphis Children's Theatre Festival, hosted by Voices of the South.

The popular Memorial Day weekend event kicks off 6 p.m. Friday at Rhodes Collage and runs through Saturday afternoon. 

VOTS Jenny Madden and Alice Berry discuss this year's lineup with Kacky Walton.



Kacky Walton: You get representatives from all the area theater companies doing kid-friendly theater. You got dancing, magic, music, everything... 

Jenny Madden: The best part about it, in addition to bringing the community together, is it's 'pay what you can.' We want to give everyone an opportunity to see them, but sometimes the affordability aspect keeps everyone away. This is a chance to see so many local organizations working together and presenting things that are family-friendly. 

Walton: Everything kicks off Friday (May 25) at 6:00pm, the grounds open with music by Me & Leah. 

Madden: He will start on the ArtMemphis outdoor stage. Then, we will go inside to see an original adaptation of The Ugly Duckling (7 p.m. Friday) written by Voices of the South's, Jerre Dye, but it's very different this year. 

Alice Berry: It is very different this year because we are using our interns from the University of Memphis. They are recreating all the roles that were written for the original company members. 

Walton: The original company, being you guys?

Madden: Yes . . . Alice and I started the company in 1995, but in 2000 eight of us joined around a table to become the bigger company. We had to do something to raise money. Jerre wrote The Ugly Duckling, so that we were commission by ArtsMemphis, at the time. We performed it all over the country for the past twenty years. It's a different type of legacy now, with the kids coming in and doing it. 

Walton: If people miss The Ugly Duckling on Friday, they have a chance to see it again on Saturday (at 2 p.m.)

Madden: Saturday is chock full of entertainment. 

Berry: And, workshops. Jacob Clanton is going to be doing a tap workshop with the kids (Friday, 6:00pm).

Madden: There are three stages. There is the ArtMemphis stage, the Via Production stage, which is our main stage, and the Jeniam Foundation Stage, which is our lab space. Literally, every hour on the hour there is something. If you need a full rundown of the lineup, visit, which is our website and gives you the schedule.

Walton: Saturday kicks off at 10 a.m. with music from a group called momandpop. 

Berry: That's Virginia Matthews, with the Voices of the South... 

Madden: ...Who was in the original The Ugly Duckling. She and her husband have made up this new group called momandpop. They perform all over the southeast region and they recently had a number one hit on SIRUS Radio for Kids, called Take Care... 

Berry: ...Which was in a show that premiered four years ago at the festival. They have a new show and a new album coming out, so it's all new music. 

Madden: People have asked 'what is the age for the Memphis Children's Festival?' Of course, I will say all ages but it really is geared to 0-12. Yet, everything is for everybody. There's a group from St. Mary's and we are bringing in snippets of Into the Woods Jr. that we just did with our middle school (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.). Stage Door is bringing some of their show (Seussical KIDS, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.) and DeSoto Family Center is bringing some of their show (Godspell, Saturday, 3:45 p.m.). There is really a mix of music and theatre. 

One thing I love about the festival is that if you have a smaller child, like two or three-years-old, and you are worried about them coming in and sitting and behaving – the cool thing about the festival is that you come in and bring that child and that child stays as long as that child is ready and then you can go out and do something else on the grounds. It's at Rhodes College, which has all that green space. A fire truck is also going to be there, as well as food trucks. 

Berry: Jerre Dye built The Ugly Duckling for three to four-year-olds, with the way it is designed – the way every seven minutes something amazing happens. Also, watching grandmothers cry in the audience because it is so beautiful. The story is so touching about the Ugly Duckling finding home and his place in the world. And, so it really is geared for all ages. 

Madden:  There is also a musical petting zoo. There is something for everyone.  

Walton: You're also having a silent auction.

Berry: The kids have worked hard on gathering all the silent action items. 

Madden:  They are family friendly silent auction items, which helps pay for the festival. 

Berry: It allows it to remain a 'pay what you can' event.

Walton: What's the deal with the backpacks? You're giving all the kids backpacks?

Berry: We started that last year. We got some little backpacks so that the kids can get little goodies while they are there at the festival, they can stick them in the backpack and take them home, while having a little keepsake. 

Walton: How many food trucks are you going to have?

Madden: Well, we have one major food truck and then we have MemPops coming. But, the food truck has a little something for everyone’s taste. 

Berry: We are also excited because several of the interns that worked really hard this past month, they only had a couple of weeks to put everything together. But, they also got MemPops to be taking a day and making donations to Voices of the South and so is Panera Bread. There will be more information about that at the festival as well.

For more information and the full schedule of the Memphis Children's Festival, visit