Pop in your ear buds, lace up your kicks, and get ready to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods, because Chicago Children’s Theatre has released five, all-new Walkie Talkies audio adventure tours.
Logan Square, Grant Park, Palmer Square, Chinatown, and Chicago Children’s Theatre’s own neighborhood, the West Loop, are the newest Walkie Talkies destinations. In CCT’s popular podcast series, every neighborhood becomes a unique adventure hosted by a local theater artist, encouraging kids and families to get outside and explore Chicago’s diverse communities.
Each pod is an original story creatively fused with a traditional neighborhood tour meant to engage kids’ imaginations as it points out Chicago landmarks, historical figures and top destinations along the way.
Thanks to new support from the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, more pods will be released this fall, meaning more than 20 neighborhoods will have their own Walkie Talkie by year’s end.
Each pod runs under one hour, and comes with a downloadable map, photos of tour highlights, vocabulary keys, and fun resources like reading and song lists.
Visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/event/walkie-talkies for more information and to download episodes. Or, log onto your favorite podcast service, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, search “Chicago Children’s Theatre Walkie Talkies,” and smash the subscribe button.
Chicago Children’s Theatre, celebrating its 18th birthday in 2022-23, is Chicago’s largest professional theater devoted to children and young families.
Here’s more about the company’s five newest Walkie Talkies episodes:
(Editor's note: click any badge to link to that podcast and to download the walking map and resource guide. Or, click "excerpt" to hear short audio clips from the new Logan Square, Palmer Square and West Loop Walkie Talkies.
After reluctantly taking a trip with her mother to Unity Park in Logan Square, Harper befriends an eccentric tree keeper who teaches her the history of the area, while simultaneously leading her on an adventure of the imagination. The Unity Park gazebo becomes a jellyfish, the playground morphs into a dense jungle, and the tree keeper is revealed to be much more than she seems. Join as the group explores the rich and vibrant history of Unity Park, and learn about its place in Logan Square. Enjoy side trips to the Illinois Centennial Monument, and bustling Milwaukee Avenue, which, according to Harper, brims with alien life.
Logan Learnin’ was written by Lomai, a Chicago based writer/director with a growing list of short films, videos and independent features, including his debut film, the sci-fi/fake documentary Proven. Lomai has also written (under his real name, Tommy Sigmon) the screenplay for the thriller Sin Verite, and the sci-fi fantasy adventure The Kid-Verse Adventures. The cast features Claire “Fluff” Llewellyn as Lynn, the tree keeper; Celia Valerie as Harper; and Jessica Ridenour as Mom.
The walking map of Unity Park, part of the Logan Learnin' Walkie Talkies resource guide.
MJ’s Palmer Square Picnic Adventure
This foodie-focused pod explores Palmer Square, with visits to local favorites TropiCuba for sandwiches and empanadas, and Mikos and The Freeze for sweet, frozen treats.
It’s all part of ten-year-old Wisconsin-native Mary Jane’s first adventure in Chicago, where MJ and her adoptive parents have traveled to visit her favorite cousin, and meet his new girlfriend. Listeners are introduced to Chicago’s historic boulevard park system with a walk around the neighborhood, observing nature, art, even Chicago bike etiquette.
Meanwhile, MJ, who is Black, is keeping score if her cousin’s new girlfriend, who is also Black, might be his perfect match. In MJ’s Palmer Square Picnic Adventure, listeners experience not only the hustle and bustle of Chicago, but are invited to slow down to enjoy shared history and each other’s company.
MJ’s Palmer Square Picnic Adventure, written and voiced by actor, filmmaker, musician, teaching artist, writer, and producer Leslie Ann Shepherd, is based on an autobiographical story. She’s an avid urban biker, and a veteran performer on virtually all of Chicago’s top stages, including Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Jabari Dreams of Freedom and The Hundred Dresses. She's also an avid urban biker.
MJ’s Palmer Square Picnic Adventure recommends stops at Palmer Square restaurants TropiCuba, Miko's Italian Ice and The Freeze.
Sonic Love Experiment #312
After the isolation of the last few years, Javid Music Party, aka GQ of Chicago’s hip-hop theater ensemble, the Q Brothers, has created the perfect pod to shake out your sillies in the middle of Chicago’s Grant Park. GQ’s dance music-infused audio tour gives families an upbeat, original EDM soundtrack to explore Grant Park however they like, with open minds and willing hearts, guided by sounds, frequencies and rhythms.
Javid Music Party is the electro identity of Chicago’s own GQ, one of the award-winning and internationally acclaimed theater artists, the Q Brothers. Famous for their hit production The Bomb-itty of Errors and Q Brothers Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Q Brothers create original work fusing hip hop and theater, adapting classic stories to a wholly original, entertaining and fast-paced style of comedic performance.
While Walkie Talkies are usually created by local theater artists, two of this newest batch of episodes are the brainchild of two very enterprising Chicago kids:
Walk Through Food Chinatown
Eat your way around Chinatown under the expert guidance of 18-year-old Gaby Yuen-Morales. Starting in Chinatown Square, Gaby tells the history of Chinese immigration and cuisine in Chicago while visiting three delicious restaurants for dim sum, bubble tea and more, ending with a walk by the river in historic Ping Tom Memorial Park. Along the way, you’ll also hear stories from Gaby’s interviews with her own expert in Chinese food and history: her mom!
Yuen-Morales is an incoming freshman at the DePaul University College of Communication. Her family has been a part of Chicago’s Chinese community for more than 75 years, and generations of families have come through their restaurants. “I like to think that we, especially my Gong Gong, have made a really positive, nostalgic impact on people through our food.”
The Walk Through Food Chinatown resource guide includes this Chinese cuisine glossary.
You Say Olympus, I Say West Loop
The Greek Goddess Artemis, who has been stuck in the Elysian Field for eternity, finally meets nine-year-old Sophia, who has offered to show her around the West Loop. The only problem is that Artemis, impressed by the West Loop’s grandeur, keeps confusing the West Loop with the Wondrous City of Olympus.
Together Sophia and Artemis explore the West Loop, from Greektown to Mary Bartelme Park, Skinner Park to Chicago Children’s Theater, WNDR Museum to West Loop Public Library, Restaurant Row to the Time Out Market. As listeners loop around the West Loop they are also encouraged to appreciate the community’s vibrant murals.
You Say Olympus, I Say West Loop is written, directed and performed by Sophia Mohammad, a 9-year-old West Loop resident, veteran student artist in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s education program, and the youngest Walkie Talkies creator to date. Kay Kron is co-producer and plays Artemis.
Does YOUR neighborhood have a Walkie Talkie?
Click the badge below to link and listen to season one episodes of the Walkie Talkies podcast series, already released and ready for touring:
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 18th season:
Coming this fall, live on stage
Chicago Children’s Theatre launches its 18th season this fall with the hometown debut of Manual Cinema’s super fun new family show, Leonardo! A Wonderful Story about a Terrible Monster. Inspired by the popular children’s books by Mo Willems, returning to Chicago direct from New York City and the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, Leonardo! is, according to the New York Times, “more like seeing a movie than attending a play…just one of this interactive production’s charms...using paper cutouts, fuzzy puppets, an energetic cast and funny songs to tell a story that is seamlessly projected onto a huge screen hanging over the stage.” Performances are September 10-October 16, 2022. Mark your calendar, because these shows will sell out.
In winter, Chicago Children’s Theatre brings back The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, a seasonal rite of passage for countless Chicago toddlers, for its seventh season, November 19-December 24, 2022.
In spring, CCT will delight families with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, April 15-May 14, 2023.
Two- and three--show subscriptions to Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2022-23 season start at just $37.50 and are on sale now at chicagochildrenstheatre.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312) 374-8835 to learn more about discounted rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is a “no shushing” theater. It’s located at 100 S. Racine Ave., at Monroe, in the heart of Chicago's West Loop, minutes from
I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Free, onsite parking is available on the south side of the building. Free street parking can be found nearby on weekends, or try the Impark lot, 1301 W. Madison St.
About Chicago Children's Theatre
“The Chicago theater scene is legendarily vibrant, so naturally a number of companies tailor productions to younger audiences. The cream of the crop is Chicago Children’s Theatre.”
– Chicago Tribune
Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Today, Chicago Children’s Theatre is the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. CCT has established a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.
In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families.
CCT provides tens of thousands of free and reduced-price tickets to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. CCT also continues to grow its performing arts and STEAM education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for ages 0 to 14.
In 2019, Chicago Children’s Theatre won the National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. In addition, Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is supported by Goldman Sachs, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, The Shubert Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince, Bayless Family Foundation, The Crown Family, Rea Charitable Trust, ComEd, US Bank, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), The Susan M. Venturi Fund in memory of James and Roslyn Marks to Support Theatre Education Accession, and Erin and Jason, Ben, Bici and David Pritzker.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Armando Chacon.
For more, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org.