Spring has arrived and so has the annual announcement of the UMass Fine Arts Center’s (FAC) new season. The 2019-20 FAC performing arts season hosts a brilliant line-up of international and local treasures, as well as some newcomers to FAC venues. And for families, there are five events that are accessible for all ages plus many other events for older children. The season includes more than 30 performances, all with the goal of engaging, entertaining and inspiring its audiences.
For decades the FAC has been a place for families to gather and enjoy the power of live performance, and next season we have worked to continue this tradition. An affordable way to introduce children to the magic of live performances, these shows bring families together, spark creativity and engage the imagination as only a live performance can. With the FAC Family Fun Series, you not only get a season’s worth of great entertainment, you also get guaranteed family time.
The fun gets started in October when Lightwire Theater presents Dino-Light (10/20). A famous scientist with magic powers brings a friendly dinosaur to life. When the dinosaur wanders away from home, he discovers a wonderful world full of creatures that light up the darkness and help him find the true meaning of love. This glow-in-the-dark adventure has been praised for its cutting-edge blend of puppetry, technology and dance by audiences all over the world. There is a Family Fest in the lobby starting at 1 p.m. with curtain at 2 p.m.
Then in December award-winning fiddle virtuosos Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy accompanied by an incredible array of talented musicians – and their children – welcomes the audience into the wonderful world of their Celtic Family Christmas (12/4). It has an early starting time of 7 p.m.
In January, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with We Shall Overcome (1/28) featuring Damien Sneed. From Nina Simone to The Wiz, Stevie Wonder to traditional spirituals, and interspersed with the spoken words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s an evening of music that shows the lineage of these Civil Rights visionaries is still with us today. In February, the award-winning theatrical drum group, GUGU Drum Group (2/11), brings its traditional Chinese drumming techniques with movement and stunning projections to portray Chinese proverbs, fables, and fairy tales.
From Broadway comes a musical the whole family can enjoy, Finding Neverland (2/25). The winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical, this breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart,” says Time Magazine. The story-line follows the relationship between playwright J. M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event. It, too, has an earlier starting time of 7 p.m.
Just in time to alleviate that cabin fever, Cirque Flip Fabrique brings a Blizzard to the FAC stage. With some of the most exciting circus performers on the circuit today, Cirque Flip Fabrique (3/18) brings audiences on a crazy, fun, poetic and tender journey, and invites you to get lost in a moment of winter wonder. Topping off the family fun, Monkey Baa Theatre Company from Australia presents Diary of a Wombat (4/9). Millions of young people around the world have adored this multi-award winning picture book. Now this iconic work by Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French, and Bruce Whatley comes to the stage. Meet Mothball, the naughtiest wombat in Australia. Monkey Baa uses the magic of puppetry and live music to bring this delightful story to the stage. Family Fest in the lobby at 6 p.m. with curtain at 7 p.m.
We at the FAC know how harrying it can be to get everyone ready to go for show time, so for all the family shows, the FAC will have a food truck on the plaza with family friendly offerings. Concessions will also have family friendly options and we now have a water bottle filling station in the lobby. Also, there are baby changing tables in both restrooms. And for those date nights, we have plenty more great performances to choose from.
A fully-illustrated brochure will be available in June but for now, an online preview is available at fineartscenter.com/preview offering additional information, including videos and artist links or you can go right to the family page at fineartscenter.com/family. The FAC also has two galleries and a museum. More on the 2019-20 visual arts lineup can be found at fineartscenter.com/visualarts.
To keep the arts accessible for all, the FAC offers a wide range of ticket prices. The “build-as-you-go” program for busy families that can’t commit far in advance and the create-your-own subscription package. Youth and Five College tickets range from $7 to $30. Single ticket discounts for seniors is now 15%. Discounted family packs are available for Lightwire Theater and Diary of a Wombat. There is also a popular discount program for those 40 years and under that includes exclusive artist meet & greets and other benefits. More on that at fineartscenter.com/under40. Subscriptions are on sale now by phone at 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMAS. Online subscription sales and single ticket purchases are available May 31.