New season of First Fridays to debut

The spotlight has shone brightly on celebrating creativity. Learning perseverance. Extending kindness.

And through the past 26 years, Old National Bank’s First Fridays For Families presented by the Columbus Area Arts Council has remained among the most popular local presentations for youngsters.

Geri Handley, the arts council’s marketing manager, believes she partly knows why.

“It’s a free, high-quality event for children presented by people whose specialty is entertaining children,” said Handley, who has brought her own grandchildren to the shows. “Kids are able to have fun while being exposed to the arts and learning a few life lessons, though they may not be immediately aware that’s happening.”

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The newest season kicks off at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 at The Commons with the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati presenting the classic “A Christmas Carol.”

In recent years, performances have attracted 400 to 600 people, including parents and grandparents, with shows aimed primarily at kindergartners through third-graders.

“One of the very good things about it,” Handley said, “is that the shows are presented at the children’s level.”

But without talking down to youngsters.

In fact, many performers through the seasons have emphasized the importance of affirming their audience’s intelligence and insight — a component that they have said helps them connect with people in attendance.

Among each season’s lineup usually comes a performance of the local nonprofit Dancers Studio Inc., a popular ensemble with an age group who still believes in dance for the sheer joy and exuberance of it. Last year, student dancers presented an abridged version of “The Jungle Book.”

Handley’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Emerson Ley, went wild over it.

“She absolutely loved it,” Handley said.

Alma Wiley, Dancer’s Studio Inc.’s longtime director, said the annual springtime performance, including this year’s “Alice in Wonderland,” always serves as a good outlet for visibility — and to help her dancers hone their skills.

“That becomes one way we build better dancers,” Wiley said, adding that children are an excited audience. “Our students especially love dancing for the kids. And the kids are so responsive to dance.”

Lineup overview

All shows are free and presented at 6 p.m. at The Commons.

  • Dec. 2: “A Christmas Carol,” presented by Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati
  • Jan. 6: “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” presented by Madcap Puppets
  • Feb. 3: “Aesop’s Fables,” presented by Bright Star Theater
  • March 3: “Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun (The Musical),” presented by Stars Within Reach
  • April 7: “Alice in Wonderland,” presented by the local Dancers Studio Inc.
  • May 5: Juggler Matt Jergens

Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.