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Ladybug players bring grins to Inner Southeast kids

by: David F. Ashton, Michele Earley and Matt Pipes start the show with Baby Bear in their production of “The Three Little Pigs”.  Wait!..Baby Bear? “He wanted to be in our show, and the kids agreed it was a good idea,” Earley explained.

While they long for a permanent home, founders of the Ladybug Theater still play to full houses in Sellwood, and spark imaginations.

Many of Portland's professional 'Equity' actors started their careers sharing the stage with a ladybug. So did National Public Radio's Ari Shapiro.

No, they weren't doing scenes with insects, but with Ladybug--the hand puppet who is the mascot of the famous Portland children's Ladybug Theater.

Introducing kids to theater

Back in 1959, the Ladybug Theater was formed, performing for two decades at the Oregon Zoo in a building shaped like, you guessed it, a ladybug.

'There is nothing like it anywhere,' the theater's director Michele Earley, told us. 'We have audience participation in every show. But more importantly, kids learn that theater isn't frightening.'

Because children who come to Ladybug Theater shows are encouraged to use their humor and imagination, Earley said, they are more likely to attend, or even participate in, live theater.

Kids also learn theater manners and etiquette. 'In a TV generation, it is important for kids to learn how to behave in a public setting. We help young parents learn how to teach their children how to enjoy live programs and theater.'

According to Earley, all of their shows are created in-house. 'We start by making a scenario; an outline for how the storyline will progress. Then the actors take the scenario and create the play and story.'

Ladybug without a home

Earley was upbeat as she and her son, Matt Pipes, prepared for their September 13th show. But, she admitted that not having a permanent home for the theater was difficult for her.

'After the Zoo, we were in Multnomah Village for three years, and then at Oaks Park for 15 years. But, for the past six years, we've been 'homeless'.

'This means we can't do larger, family shows on weekend dates. But, we're keeping the Ladybug Theater tradition alive by doing smaller shows here at the SMILE Station, at S.E. 13th and Tenino in Sellwood. This is the building of the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association; they let us use it. Thank You SMILE!'

It's showtime!

As opening music played, about 50 parents and kids filtered into the hall. Older kids sat in front of the puppet stage.

As Pat Carter came in with her son Tyler, she said, 'We're here because we like puppet shows. The interactive programs put on by the Ladybug Theater helps him learn -- not just be entertained. He starts preschool later this week - so we won't be able to come for a while!'

The lights were dimmed. Soon, everyone's attention was on Ladybug's introduction. Another production of the Ladybug Theater was underway.

Don't miss these shows

October 4-5 and 11-12, Ladybug Theater presents 'The Three Silly Goats Gruff and the Troll is Enough'. This show features silly fun and lots of audience participation.

October 18-19 and 20-25, see their Hallowe'en tradition, 'The Ghost Catcher', featuring Boo Hoo Ghost. This show is rated 'Absolutely NOT Scary'!

See the shows at the SMILE Station, 8210 SE 13th Street, 1 block south of Tacoma in Sellwood. Showtime is 10:30 am; tickets are $3 each. Call 503/232-2346 for your reservation, or more information.