Note: This post is part of an ongoing blog series called #costamesa365 where the author is striving to shop only* in her city of Costa Mesa, for a year.

Living in the City of the Arts – parent to a couple of theater-loving kids – has made #costamesa365 a lot more entertaining than it might otherwise have been.

This past week, we caught the live-theater production of Emily Brown and the Thing at Samueli Theater. If you have kids in Costa Mesa, you’ve got to give one of the Samueli Theater children’s productions a try.

I don’t know who the program director is over at Samueli Theater, but I need to find out, and interview the person or people responsible.

Someone over there has impeccable taste. Every single play we’ve seen at Samueli hasn’t just been delightful – it’s also been smart, subtle, layered with meaning, and brilliantly designed to make big use of a very small stage.

Because Emily Brown was almost too magical to describe, here’s the write-up from the SCFTA website:

“One evening, Emily Brown and her old grey rabbit Stanley hear a Thing crying outside their window. The poor Thing just can’t get to sleep, so Emily Brown and Stanley set off on incredible adventures to the Dark and Scary Wood, the Whirling Wastes and beyond, to find the Thing’s cuddly, his bedtime milk, and his medicine… but nothing seems to help him settle. What’s really troubling the Thing, and will anyone ever get to sleep? Touching on themes of fear, bravery and adventure, this production has great songs, clever puppets, and characters that audiences of all ages will adore. Join us for this magical musical show, based on the much-loved book by Cressida Cowell (writer of ‘How to Train your Dragon’) and Neal Layton.”

The theater company responsible for the performance, Tall Stories, used props and puppetry at varying scale to convey the kind of perspective shifts you might expect form cinema, but cannot usually achieve on a small stage. It was brilliant!

Here’s a short preview video, about the play, to give you a better idea:

Samueli Theater is a cozy, little place, tucked away behind the more impressive theaters and concert hall that make SCFTA famous.

Because of Samueli’s off-the-beaten-path location, and more-intimate venue, it’s a bit of a “best kept secret” situation. The kind of “if you know, you know” Costa Mesa gem that easily flies under the radar if you’re not paying attention. (I highly recommend you pay attention.)

Samueli is a contender for the best theater in town for the family-friendly set. With a capacity of roughly 300 people, there’s not a bad seat in the house. Your kids won’t have to strain to see the stage – it’s all right there in front of you.

The theater is such an intimate size, they even offer interactive shows on occasion – where kids can become a character in the play, and participation is encouraged. It’s the kind of experience you just can’t have in larger venues, with thousands of spectators.

Not just for kids, they have programming for all ages, and interests, throughout the year.

So just a little theater tip from me to you. Let us know in our Facebook Group, if you’ve been to Samueli Theater and like it as much as I do.

As I move into Month Four of #costamesa365, I’m ever more grateful for brilliant stories like Emily Brown, and local gems like Samueli Theater, to sustain me on my year-long journey. Bravo!

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*We will always start by shopping / looking in Costa Mesa, first. But if we really need something and an alternative is nowhere to be found in Costa Mesa, we’ll stray. Also, as parents, we’ve decided that certain kid-related things (mainly educational) will need to remain baked in.