Mount Baker Theatre features Portland Taiko, other low-priced educational programs

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 16, 2014 

Acclaimed percussion ensemble Portland Taiko brings its high-energy act to Bellingham as the Mount Baker Theatre continues its low-priced education series for two shows.

Some tickets remained earlier in the week for both shows, especially the afternoon one, said program manager Alison C. Terry, who works with educational events at the theater.

"We have had a pretty good response," she said. "It's really exciting for the local community. They're getting to see high-quality, professional shows that they might not get to experience otherwise.

"That is our goal - to make it accessible to everybody."

Portland Taiko plays at 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, in the Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St. Tickets can be reserved online at mountbakertheatre.com/events or by calling 360-734-6080 during business hours. Tickets are $5 and $6.50, plus any fees.

Terry said a walk-up purchase might be best for day-of-show tickets. Shows such as Portland Taiko are popular among local school groups and home schoolers. Terry agreed that the theater's educational events offer valuable lessons and are worth parents excusing students from class if their school isn't attending a particular performance.

Portland Taiko members - "taiko" is Japanese for "drum" - will discuss their instruments, their art and its roots in Japanese religious and cultural ceremonies. In America, taiko drumming became an important part of the movement to obtain redress for the internment of Japanese-American U.S. citizens during World War II, according to information at the group's website.

They've performed several times in Bellingham and have been very popular.

"The nice thing about things like Portland Taiko is that it pretty much applies across the board" to instructional themes of music, history and culture, Terry said. "In this region, especially, that's really important."

Mount Baker Theatre's Education Program is supported by a grant from the Frank King Family in memory of their 10-year-old son, Wade King who loved the theater. He died in the 1999 pipeline disaster. Additional sponsors make other shows possible.

Other programs in the education series are "Stuart Little" on Thursday, March 6; "The Lewis and Clark Expedition" on March 24-27; "Bronkar's Circus of Sound" on Thursday, April 24; and "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day" on Tuesday, May 13. In addition, the Missoula Children's Theatre conducts three weeks of acting camps - with performances - in July and August.

The Feb. 6-7 performances of "Stunt Dog Experience" are sold out, Terry said.

Terry said stage adaptations of classic children's stories such as "Stuart Little" and "Alexander" can be extremely rewarding, especially for students who are unconventional learners.

"It gives them the opportunity to delve into what was different from the book, what did they change," Terry said.

Terry said "Stuart Little," in particular, is critically acclaimed for its fast-paced and engaging story and its catchy songs.

"They have a really wonderful national reputation and we're super-glad to have them," she said.

Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events, hikes or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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