Let’s get real: First Fridays series returns Friday to The Commons

("The Velveteen Rabbit") Submitted photo

One of the Columbus’ longest-running and most popular series returns to The Commons on Friday with an emotional lesson about getting real, you might say.

The North Carolina-based Bright Star Theatre brings its free presentation of the classic children’s tale “The Velveteen Rabbit” to the local, downtown stage at 6 p.m. as part of the Columbus Area Arts Council’s First Friday for Families events aimed at area youngsters.

Author Margery Williams’ powerful story involves a toy character known as the Skin Horse teaching a little boy’s stuffed rabbit that being real means being truly loved by someone. But the rabbit must suffer a measure of rejection and loneliness before blossoming as he has dreamed.

For nearly 30 years, the monthly shows regularly have attracted crowds of 300 to 500 people for youngster-oriented entertainment, including short plays, concerts, puppet shows, magic and more. The primary audience for the shows from December through April is kindergartners through third-graders, according to organizers.

But some local clans bring along older siblings and the grandparents, too.

Shows are slated at 6 p.m. the first Friday of every month. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Support this season from the Carl Marshall and Mildred Almen Reeves Foundation, with added support from the City of Columbus, keeps the performances free to the public.

Here is the overview of the slate of performances beyond Friday:

Jan. 3 with “Mario the Maker Magician” — An award-winning New York City-based children’s performer, Mario is known for the integration of do-it-yourself electronics and robotics in his show, inspiring kids to dream up their own creations. It’s a modern take on old-school vaudeville and slapstick: upbeat, interactive, rock ‘n’ roll.

Feb. 7 with the local Mill Race Theatre Company and “Charming Princes” — Cinderella lived the dream. So what if Prince Charming wasn’t perfect? He was a prince, and that’s what she wished for — right? Fortunately, Fairy Godmother is on hand to sort out stale dreams and unwanted wishes, even if it means charming a prince or two.

March 6 with Bongo Boy Music School: Jam as a Fam — Family Rhythm Event Jam with the Indianapolis-based Bongo Boy Music School as they play drums and sing along to fun songs. This move-and-groove program — one that drew one of the series’ largest crowds ever a few years ago — is designed for young children to engage with parents, grandparents and other kiddos while they explore rhythm, music and movement.

April 3 with Dancers’ Studio, Inc. presenting “Cinderella” — Bring your eyes, ears and dancing feet to join Dancers Studio, Inc. for a preview of their original production of “Cinderella.” Full of music, audience participation and — of course — dancing, this re-telling is aimed to delight kids of all ages.