Story Time Magic exhibit opens at The Magic House on May 24

Young children can approach the world quite literally, as you may know if you have ever endured bedtime questions about where the hay is and why we’d want to hit it. So imagine the delight that visitors to the new Story Time Magic exhibit at The Magic House experience when they’re invited to “get into a good book.”

It’s the first major exhibit installation in about 15 years and replaces the Star Spangled Center on the museum’s lower level. The new exhibit is slated to open this Friday, May 24, and will be included with regular paid admission.

In the “Once Upon a Time” gallery, guests will be able to climb into bunny’s red-and-green twin bed from the classic book Goodnight Moon; join Peter Rabbit to harvest carrots from Mr. McGregor’s garden; or clamber in, around, and under Winnie the Pooh’s treehouse in search of a jar of ‘hunny.’

The fully immersive playscapes, drawn from several beloved children’s books, are one way that The Magic House hopes to entice children and their caregivers into rekindling a shared habit of reading books.

“There is a value and a sweetness in a parent and child loving books together, and this new focus is something our visitors and community partners have been asking us for, both to support families and to address the post-pandemic learning gaps around language that we’re all still seeing,” says Beth Fitzgerald, president of The Magic House.

One community partner, in particular, is getting in on the act: The Muny stepped in to collaborate on the largest part of the new exhibit, “Story Time Theater.”

On the walls surrounding the stage and seats, props and posters from years of past Muny shows provide artistic inspiration. A Seussical-inspired truffala tree and Mary Poppins’ magical carpet bag, for instance, are two of the artifacts visitors can see. As The Muny’s president/CEO, Kwofe Coleman, points out, The Muny has been the first exposure to live theater for generations of St. Louis kids (and adults).

Just offstage (stage right, in fact, another bit of literacy sprinkled into the experience) would-be actors, performers, and producers will find “Backstage Magic,” a pre-show green room that’s chockfull of costume clothing and prop-making materials for masks, hats, wands, and ears. There’s also a rehearsal stage area, as well as prompts along the walls to generate scenes and dialogue for budding playwrights and dramaturgists. And the main stage itself will include digitally animated backdrops, such as underwater and city scenes, as well as changeable lighting and sound.

As Fitzgerald explains, the theater—like the new exhibit itself—will provide a dedicated, thoughtful space for “whatever children want to create.”

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