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TYKEs partners with PUSH to bring Corduroy alive

TYKEs (Theatre Young Kids Enjoy) continues its 15th season with the on-stage production of Corduroy, based on two award-winning books written and illustrated by Don Freeman: Corduroy and its sequel, A Pocket for Corduroy. The show is a collaborative effort between TYKEs and PUSH Physical Theatre. PUSH is known as a leader in the field of physical theatre internationally, named by Backstage Magazine as one of the 13 most innovative physical theatre companies in the world.

The show runs for two weekends only, from January 12 to 20 at the Hart Theater at the JCC, 1200 Edgewood Avenue in Brighton. Show dates are:

Saturday, January 12 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sunday, January 13 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, January 19 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sunday, January 20 at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $18 ($16 for JCC members) and are available at TykesTheatre.org or by calling 585-461-2000. New for this season, TYKEs’ patrons can select their own seats when they order on-line 24-hours a day.

The show follows a bear named Corduroy on an exuberant chase through every section of Freeman’s Department Store in search of a button missing from his iconic green overalls. Unbeknownst to Corduroy, the night watchman is in hot pursuit of the store’s mysterious intruder, while a little girl named Lisa is at home pleading with her mother to let her adopt Corduroy and give him a home. The tender, enduring story about true friendship features high-energy action and loads of physical comedy, expertly choreographed by Heather Stevenson, co-founder of PUSH Physical Theatre.

“For years, I’ve wanted to find the perfect collaborative show for PUSH and TYKEs to work on together, and the moment I read the Corduroy script, I knew it was the one,” explains TYKEs’ founder and director Freyda Schneider. “This show is the ideal blend of physicality and comedy -- and at the same time, tenderness. It’s both hilarious and poignant and the combination of TYKEs’ direction and PUSH’s choreography brings this out in a way that is simply riveting. Audiences will be dazzled.”

“I’ve been looking to get to work with Freyda and TYKEs for years, and Corduroy just fit as the project to do together and I’ve been having a ball,” says Stevenson. “As the choreographer, my goal is always to help the cast members to find, develop and present their physical storytelling,” describes Stevenson. “I consider myself a coach and an editor, leading the collaborative process between myself, the director and the actors, helping them to own their creative decisions and perfect them for the stage to convey meaning as clearly as possible.”

The show is cleverly directed by Wayne Dunbar with musical direction by Jim Schmitt. The cast of all-local adult, professional actors includes Ian Slentz as Corduroy, Rick Staropoli as the Night Watchman, Gwen Scott as Lisa’s Mom, and aerialist Emily Lipski playing the unique comedic role of the store mannequin. Seventh-grade Victor student Alisha Turner plays the role of Lisa.

Close to 20 million copies of the Corduroy books have sold around the world, making it one of the best-loved children’s books of all time and winning a plethora of awards, among them:

- Corduroy hosted Jumpstart’s Read for the Record campaign, which raised more than $1.5 million for early education programs. Two million children and adults read the book on the same day.

- Corduroy was one of the first books inducted into the Indies Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame.

- The New York Public Library named Corduroy one of the 100 Great Children’s Books from the Last 100 Years.

- The National Education Association named Corduroy one of the Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.

- School Library Journal named Corduroy one of the Top 100 Picture Books for the 21st Century.

- Corduroy’s creator, Don Freeman, received the Kerlan Award in recognition of his singular attainments in the creation of children’s literature.

Continuing TYKEs’ 15th season is It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman, a remake of the iconic 1966 musical of the same name. TYKEs is only the second theater in the entire nation to produce the new musical, which runs March 9 to 17. The season culminates with The Pied Piper April 1 to 6, a special program featuring 60 local children.

TYKEs consistently ranks as the #1 Children’s Theatre Company in Rochester by KidsOutandAbout.com, and one of the top ten places in all of Rochester to bring kids – for the eighth consecutive year. TYKEs also received the Family Favorite award for Best Children’s Theatre Performances by Rochester & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine (now ROC Parent).

PUSH was founded in 2000 by the husband-wife team Darren and Heather Stevenson. According to the NY Theatre Guide, “… any chance to see a PUSH Physical Theatre performance is an opportunity not to be wasted.” The award-winning troupe appeared as finalists on TruTV’s national series, Fake Off and collaborated with composer Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon for his Pulitzer-nominated opera Comala, which resulted in performances in Mexico at the Cervantino Festival and a US tour. PUSH’s world premiere of Dracula ran for three-weeks to sold-out audiences at Geva Theatre Center. PUSH continues to run a Summer Intensive for adults, attracting students from all over the world.

For a complete listing of TYKEs’ show dates and times, visit TykesTheatre.org.