Pop in your ear buds and lace up your sneakers, because Chicago Children’s Theatre is adding three new episodes to its Walkie Talkies podcast series of self-guided, story-based audio-tours of different Chicago neighborhoods for kids and families
Walkie Talkies, available for free download via chicagochildrenstheatre.org, debuted last fall with three episodes guiding young urban adventurers through audio tours of Little Village, South Shore and North Park Nature Center in Lincoln Park.
This summer, in partnership with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks program, Chicago Children’s Theatre is dropping three new Walkie Talkies adventure tours, each featuring a different Chicago park: Horner Park on Chicago’s Northwest side, Ellis Park in Bronzeville and Humboldt Park in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community.
First up, and already available for free download, is The Night Heron starring the wildlife of Chicago’s Horner Park, a 54-acre park in the Irving Park neighborhood. Who is the mysterious avian interloper who spooked Horner Park’s crickets and grasshoppers last night? And who invited him? The Grackle? The Skunk? Sounds like a case for…the Night Heron.
Jessica Ridenour created the companion walking map of Horner Park.
Kids, families, and Horner Park day campers will be solving this noir-style mystery all summer, starting their tour at the Night Heron’s favorite perch, the top of “The Hill.” Explorers will follow clues and meet hilarious characters along the park’s beautiful new riverside path, then back to The Hill where they’ll learn the surprising truth about their curious visitor, and a little bit about nature in the heart of the city.
(Top) Jessica Ridenour and Shawn Pfautsch, co-creators, The Night Heron.
(Bottom) Pfautsch (left) traversed the new Horner Park Riverwalk while creating The Night Heron. He is an avid birder and photographer, who took this photo (right) of a Black Crowned Night Heron.
Chicago-based theater artists, birding enthusiasts, and husband and wife Shawn Pfautsch and Jessica Ridenour co-created this fun, funny, totally original audio mystery about a strange new bird that has all of the other animal inhabitants of Horner Park a ‘twitter. Pfautsch is familiar to Chicago audiences for his stage appearances at The House Theatre, The Hypocrites and in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s A Year With Frog and Toad and Frederick. Ridenour has performed at Second City and on television shows including Chicago PD. The Night Heron features voice work by Pfautsch, Ridenour, Journei Gavin, Dana Omar, Kevin Stangler and Kathy Pfautsch. Artwork is by Jessica Ridenour.
Walkie Talkies episode 5, Sankofa-A Journey of Bronzeville's Poppin' Past by Tina Fakhrid-Deen, drops Thursday, July 1. This audio tour features Bronzeville’s Ellis Park and dives deep into the community’s rich history. Learn about famous African-American Chicagoans like Sam Cooke, Ida B. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks. Listen to the stories behind landmarks like Mt. Pisgah, the largest African-American Arts District in the country, and The Sunset Cafe, a once-famous jazz club.
Walkie Talkies episode 6, a new walking tour of Humboldt Park by Luis Tubens, a.k.a “Logan Lu,” drops on August 1.
All Walkie Talkies run under one hour and come with a walking map to guide kids, families and field trips on their journey. Bringing a Bluetooth speaker or wireless headphones so everyone can tune in together is highly recommended. Each pod also comes with supplemental resources like photos of top tour highlights, vocabulary keys, recommended reading and song lists, and other fun activities.
Go to chicagochildrenstheatre.org to stream Walkie Talkies directly to your smart device via podcast platforms including Apple iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and Google Podcasts. Downloads are free with a suggested donation.
Each Walkie Talkie episode was commissioned and produced by Chicago Children’s Theatre and devised by local theater artists. CCT Co-Founder and Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell conceived the audio adventure series in response to the pandemic, both to create paid work for Chicago theater artists, while encouraging kids and families to get outside, have some fun, release a little stress and create happy shared family memories together.
Russell co-produces the series with Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Director of Production, Will Bishop. Series announcer is Anthony Lombard.
In addition to its new Walkie Talkies podcasts, Chicago Children’s Theatre offers a robust roster of free, virtual theater and storytelling resources on its YouTube channel CCTv: Virtual Theatre and Learning from Chicago Children’s Theatre, including a play list of short “how to” videos hosted by CCT teaching artists on theater crafts like costume design, prop making and puppetry.
Meanwhile, in-person summer adventure camps are back and filled to capacity at Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine St. in Chicago’s West Loop. For information on camps and classes, including the soon-to-be-release fall session of performing arts classes, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/family-programs.
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 13.
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.
Support for Chicago Children’s Theatre is provided by Goldman Sachs, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince, Polk Bros Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, Susan M. Venturi Fund in Memory of James and Roslyn Marks to Support Theatre Education Access, the Crown Family and ComEd.
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.
ABOUT NIGHT OUT IN THE PARKS
Walkie Talkies are presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series, supported by the Mayor’s Office and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Now in its 9th year, the 2021 Night Out in the Parks program presents cultural events year-round in neighborhood parks throughout the city. The Chicago Park District in partnership with over 100 local artists and organizations, presents engaging events and performances that enhance quality of life across Chicago and amplify the artistic and cultural vibrancy in every neighborhood. Through multiple disciplines, which include theater, music, movies, dance, site-specific work, nature programs, and community festivals, the series aims to support Chicago-based artists, facilitate community-based partnerships and programs, cultivate civic engagement, and ensure equity in access to the arts for all Chicagoans. To further extend the reach of these cultural, arts and nature experiences, the Chicago Park District has mounted a virtual platform to spotlight the diversity of Chicago’s artistic offerings and provide equitable access to some of these performances for all Chicagoans and visitors alike. For more information about Night Out in the Parks, please visit nightoutintheparks.com.
Night Out in the Park events hosted in a Chicago Park District location must adhere to the City of Chicago's guidelines for park use, which state that all park users should continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing when in a crowd. Patrons who are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home and join us for an event when symptoms subside. For updates on health and safety guidelines, visit nightoutintheparks.com