Children’s Theater Festival Guide to Theater Shows

by Janet Jonus

The 33rd annual EQT Children’s Theater Festival brings the best of Theater for Children from around the globe. The Festival takes over the Cultural District for four fun-filled days May 16th through May 19th. The Festival has six world-class performances for children of all ages. The entire Festival area comes alive with crafts, activities, theater troupes, and a world premier art installation!

Children love to dress up and play. It comes naturally to them. It enhances a most precious resource- a child’s imagination. Live theater brings the magic of dress-up to children. The immersive experience of attending live theater opens up a new world of creativity; it takes the family to a place outside of reality.

Once a year in Pittsburgh, an entire festival is dedicated to theater for children. The EQT Children’s Festival is brought to the city by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

“We have one of the few theater Festivals in the country for children,” Pam Komar, Director of Children’s Programming at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “The Festival provides high-quality programming for children and adults.”

This year’s EQT Children’s Theater Festival features performances from six diverse theater troupes spread across the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh. There is a performance for every age group from babies through teens.

Air Play

Air Play at the Byham explores the air around us. Two siblings embark on a journey to find their future. They use giant pieces of fabric, umbrellas, balloons, confetti, and more while creating mesmerizing shapes and designs.

“Air Play is a beautiful piece of physical theater, storytelling, and science”, according to Pam Komar.

Air Play is an hour long with no intermissions. Air Play is for all ages. Air Play is a the Byham Theater on Friday May 17th from 1145AM-1245PM, Saturday May 18th from 1000-1100AM and 130-230PM, and Sunday May 19th from 1245-145PM. The performance in Saturday at 130PM is a Sensory-Friendly Performance with modifications for those on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorder. Sounds will be muted, bright lights and surprises are eliminated, and house rules are relaxed.

Emily Brown and the Thing

Emily Brown and the Thing is the final show in the 2018-2019 Citizen’s Bank Children’s Theater Series. Emily Brown and her stuffed Rabbit hear the Thing crying outside of their bedroom window. Thing can’t sleep, and Emily and Stanley agree to help. Thing leads them on a fantastical journey.

Based on the children’s book by Cressida Cowell, the Festival production “brings the picture book to life,” according to Pam Komar.

Emily Brown is for children 3+. The show runs 55 minutes with no intermission. Emily Brown plays at the August Wilson Center on Thursday May 16th at 1000AM, Friday May 17th at 1000AM and 215PM, Saturday May 18th at 1000AM and 1215PM, and Sunday May 19th at 1000AM and 230PM.


Murikamification by Arch 8 from the Netherlands is the finale of the 2018-2019 EQT Bridge series for kids 7+. Murikamification explores the Cultural District with a travelling street performance. It is a blend of performance art, interpretive dance, and a bit of parkour. During the performance FamilyFunPittsburgh attended, we covered about .6 of a mile along city streets, down an alley, and through a loading dock. The kids in the audience thoroughly enjoyed Murikamification. Moli, age 8, proclaimed “OK, I LOVE this show!”

“Every performance is different,” Pam Komar says. “People will see the Cultural District in a new way.” The three main artists climb walls while they lead the audience on a playful excursion. “It is an immersive, participatory, fun adventure.”

Catch this once-in-a-lifetime performance on Thursday May 16th at 1030AM, Friday May 17th at 1130AM and 345PM, Saturday May 18th at 1115AM and 115PM, and Sunday May 19th at 1030AM and 230PM. The show lasts for 45 minutes.

NOTE: The show is immersive in every way. You will be traveling around the Cultural District. It is not recommended for younger children as the group moves at a good pace. The cast also physically touches the audience, so be prepared. Autistic children may not be able to tolerate the touching.

Sky and Stone

Sky and Stone at the Trust Arts Education Center is a special, interactive play for Babies and Toddlers and their caregivers. A stone falls from the sky leading the performers to explore the concepts of movement and gravity in a safe play space.

“Sky and Stone is all about exploration, curiosity, and play,” says Pam Komar. The audience is encouraged to participate in the action. Parents and their young children are invited down onto the stage area to become part of the action. There is additional chair seating for other family members surrounding the performance area.

For children 6 months through 4 years old. One adult must sit with every child. There is more seating outside of the play area. The run time is 30 minutes. Performances are on Thursday May 16th at 1045AM and 115PM, Friday May 17th at 1000AM, 1215PM, and 300PM, Saturday May 18th at 1000AM, 1215PM, and 300PM, and Sunday May 19th at 1000AM, 1215PM, and 300PM.

Sons of Mystro

Sons of Mystro are a high-powered violin duo. They play reggae, American Pop, and more in this high-energy show at the August Wilson Center. This show is 50 minutes and for all ages. Show times are Friday May 17th at 1215PM, Saturday May 18th at 300PM, and Sunday May 19th at 1215PM.


Fly is a puppet show from Denmark. Max, a poor orphan, longs to fly. When he joins the circus and meets the Giraffe Lady, his dreams may come true!

The FamilyFunKids enjoyed this show. It is presented by two puppeteers who are also the narrators and characters in the show. As you enter the Theater, you are given a green ticket. You then immediately give the ticket to one of the puppeteers. (It is a bit confusing as your show ticket was already handled by the ushers outside of the Theater. Most kids just made a beeline for the seats.)

The play starts with the Narrators interacting in a personal, charming way. Once the story starts, the small hut in the middle of the stage becomes the stage. the puppeteers tell their story through manipulation of the hut. The two main characters are the puppets Max and the Giraffe Lady. Max is an unwanted, abandoned orphan who falls in love with the Giraffe Lady.

NOTES: The puppets, and the hut, are small. FamilyFunPittsburgh recommends sitting as close as possible. There are some scary moments during the play, and the Giraffe Lady has to be rescued from a fire. The fire is not real, and the Giraffe Lady is quickly rescued in the final act of the play. The younger kids in the audience seemed to be fine with the scary bits.

Fly plays at the Trust Arts Education Center on Thursday May 16th at 1000AM and 1215PM, Friday May 17th at 1030AM and 215PM, Saturday May 18th at 1030AM and 300PM, and Sunday May 19th at 1030AM, 1245PM, and 345PM. The show runs 40 minutes and is recommended for all ages.

This year’s EQT Children’s Theater Festival also features a world-premiere art installation called circle circle circle. Created by town.and.concrete from France, circle circle circle is hundreds of hula hoops put together to create a 15 foot tall maze. circle circle circle will be at the surface parking lot at 7th and Wood Street across from the Katz Plaza.

“We are very excited about circle circle circle,” Pam Komar says. “It is simple and complex at the same time.” Families can make their way through the art itself in a labyrinth maze.

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival is much more than Theater! The entire Festival area is crammed with over 40 interactive experiences for children from Babies and Toddlers through Teens. Kids can create art or experience it, learn about history and make their own music. Jugglers, ballerinas, balloon artists, magicians, musicians, and even professional yo-yo artists entertain and amaze. Every day has new and exciting performances throughout the four day Festival. Don’t forget about the Frog Stop Scavenger Hunt – collect stickers throughout the Festival to win a special prize.

Look for the FamilyFunPittsburgh Know Before You Go Guide here:

The Basics

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival takes over the Cultural District downtown on Thursday May 16th from 1000AM-200PM, Friday May 17th from 1000AM -500PM, Saturday May 17th and Sunday May 20th from 1000AM to 500PM. The Festival Website is https://pghkids.trustarts.org/kids .

The Festival Footprint extends from Sixth Street through Tenth Street and Liberty Avenue through Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Parking is available throughout Downtown with a limited number of advanced Pay vouchers available through the Festival Website (https://pghkids.trustarts.org/kids/plan-your-visit/parking-transportation). Parking Downtown is notoriously expensive and difficult to find so make sure you make a plan and have several back-up plans. FamilyFunPittsburgh will be using the Port Authority to get into town to avoid the hassle of driving and parking. The T’s Wood Street Station is right at 7th Street and Liberty Avenue and at the heart of the Festival.

Food trucks are available on-site and the Festival Website has a family-friendly restaurant guide available here (https://pghkids.trustarts.org/kids/plan-your-visit/festival-food).

Information about accessibility can be found here (https://pghkids.trustarts.org/kids/plan-your-visit/accessibility).
Information about the Air Play Sensory Friendly Performance on Saturday May 18th at 130PM can be found here (https://pghkids.trustarts.org/kids/plan-your-visit/sensory-friendly).

Tickets for the featured performances above are $10.00 per show with multi-show discounts as low as $6.00 per show. Tickets can be purchased online here (http://www.trustarts.org/PGHKids) or by calling 412-456-6666.

The Trust Arts Education Center is located at 805 Liberty Avenue.
The August Wilson Center is located at 980 Liberty Avenue.
The Byham Theater is located at 101 Sixth Street.

Most of the Festival is outside so be prepared for inclement weather.

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