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Disclaimer: Places, Please! provided all boxes in exchange for a fair, honest and unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (and my children’s, in this case) and not influenced by Places, Please! and/or its affiliates in any way.

So in keeping with my pledge to only promote products and companies that I 100% believe in (see The Bug Bite Thing REVIEW and Fetch Dog Fashions), I am overjoyed to be able to share with you Places, Please! Theatre Boxes. As a mom and actor who aches to be back onstage again, finding  Places, Please! has been a balm to my heart. Not only am I able to share my love of theatre with my children, but I also get a chance to exercise a creative muscle that has atrophied much these last few years.

Places, Please! has been around for a few years, and was originally geared towards children and young actors between the ages of 9 – 14. I learned about them sometime last year but my kids are just 2 and 5, so I figured I’d have to wait a few years before being able to get a subscription for my kids. Then they posted on Instagram that she was looking for families to test drive the newest iteration of the box for kids ages 4 -8 and I thought, “Well hey, I have one of those ages!” Oh, I was so excited when she onboarded us as part of her beta test!

WHAT IS PLACES, PLEASE! AND WHY DO I LOVE IT?

Places, Please! is a subscription box service created by Lisa Closner, a drama teacher committed to sharing and spreading the love of theatre art with young people across the country.  She owns and directs Merry Heart Theatre located in Portland, Oregon (fun fact, one of my favorite cities in the world).

According to the Places, Please!, website. “PLACES, PLEASE! is a way of exposing kids to the theatre who may not have this opportunity in their school. It’s a way that homeschool families can bring the arts into their education program. It’s a way for serious theatre kids to build their skills at home, so when they go to an audition at a local theatre company, they will have the edge over other actors.”

SO WHY IS THEATRE IMPORTANT? ISN’T IT JUST ACTING?

No, it is NOT just AcTiNG! Give me a break. #eyeroll

According to the American Alliance of Theatre and Education, participation in the performing arts contributes to greater academic achievement in children with and without learning disabilities, increased self-esteem, improves attendance while reducing dropout rates and enhances reading comprehension.

The Educational Theatre Foundation states, “An essential component of a well-rounded education, theatre teaches critical 21st century life skills — collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.”

The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute conducted a multi-year evaluation of Urban Improv as a violence prevention program and concluded that their 4th grade program halted the progression of aggressive behaviors and advanced pro-social behaviors. Wow.

In conclusion and in my opinion, everything theatre teaches (compassion, creativity, critical thinking, etc…) is just as important to an academic program as math and science.

SO, WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

 

Each box contains:

  1. Book
  2. Costume Piece(s)
  3. Props and/or Scenery
  4. Craft
  5. Popcorn!
  6. Parent Guide

The first box we received featured the book Penelope the Pirate Princess written by Selah Nicole Thompson (and her dad Khalil), an incredible young girl who, at five year old, dreamed up and made real the Empowered Readers Project, a non-profit organization geared towards promoting literacy and getting kids excited about reading.

What an amazing way to start the Places, Please! LITTLES box! 

Penelope the Pirate Princess is a story full of fantastical characters and is such a wild whimsical ride! My 5 year old daughter was intrigued that it was written by a young child as well. My daughter writes stories, too, so she was feeling pretty inspired after the book. This particular story was just a little too long for her since she cannot sit still for too long but we enjoyed the different scene locations as it gave us a chance to create and play different scenarios. She may also be too young for this length of story as she’s only 5 (we read the whole thing first before diving into the pretend part so that may have been on me. It would have been better to read each portion and then play each scene). The illustrations were wonderful, bright and colorful with so much to look at! As a non-white parent, I also appreciated deeply that this book was written by a Black girl and featured Black characters. We work hard to have a diverse selection of books/authors and toys in our house and this book was a welcome addition to our bookshelf.

I wasn’t expecting so much, this box was packed! The value, quality and whimsy of everything included is so worth it. There were aspects of theatre other than acting that were touched on and included (props, scenery, costumes). My daughter loved the pirate theme, loved decorating her pirate hat and patch, building her pirate flag and decorating her wall with the glow in the dark stars for the scenery. There’s enough stuff in here for 3 to 5 actors, so families blessed with more kids than I am will still have plenty to play with!

The following boxes included the books Snowmen at Night, The Knight and the Dragon, and Roses are Pink – Your Feet Really Stink.

Just like the Penelope the Pirate Princess box, each one got better and better. The following books were shorter and a little more appropriate for my daughter who is on the younger end of the age group for the Places, Please! LITTLES box.

Snowmen at Night

The Knight and the Dragon

Roses are pink, your feet really sink

Look at our snowman!! We built him with pieces from the Snowmen At Night box and a little help from our very much loved blocks and Duplo eyeballs we already had at home.

COSTUMES

One of the best things about the costumes is that they do touch on the subject of costume design. In Penelope The Pirate Princess, the craft aspect of decorating her patch was my daughter’s favorite part. The scarf, wig and earring almost seemed like bonuses because the hat and eyepatch were SO well made. The wig was my eldest daughter’s least favorite but my 2 year old loved it. The quality of the wig didn’t match the rest of the costume pieces so it might not have been necessary, however I do see the appeal, and like I said, one of my two kids liked it!

FUN FACT! The handmade costume pieces were made by a young up and coming costume designer and builder named Sabrina. The quality is incredibly impressive. The care that went into each piece is evident in the even stitching. The details do matter! Look at these pictures!

prOpS 

The props included was a deconstructed flag that my daughter put together. I appreciated we were able to build the flag ourselves, just like the hat and eyepatch decorating. Also, it has the wave-around capability without being a sword! We used to have toy swords but not anymore, LOL I don’t have to tell you why, you can probably guess  

costumeS

As for scenery, the Penelope box included glow-in-the-dark stars! My daughter loved them. They went on the wall above her bed (what we used as the pirate ship). I loved that it brought the essence of the night sky for the purpose of our story, but also works as a night light. The Pirate and the Dragon box included a couple of dragon figures and a knight figure, perfect for playing along with the book or if you want to teach your kids about set design, use them to make a shoebox diorama!

 

CraftS

The importance of a craft should not go overlooked with the Places, Please! Box. Thinking creatively and thinking on your feet are skills that are all cultivated through the various artforms that are innate with theatre. Propmasters build props by hand. Set designers not only design, but they are involved in every aspect of the build. Stage managers have to think on their feet and be incredibly organized. It’s also an opportunity to bond with your child, and talk about what you are making and why. Connecting the craft to the book builds upon the literacy skills they acquire every day.

 

We colored a mask from The Pirate and the Dragon, built a snowman from Snowmen at Night, and made valentines inspired by Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink.

Also included is a curriculum booklet with age appropriate acting lessons, suggestions on games to play, scenes to act and questions to really get the imagination wheels turning. There is even a Pinterest page with boards dedicated to every book and box ever created so you’ll have a ton of ideas to truly make each box and experience your own.

POPCORN

I would be remiss not to mention the popcorn that’s included in every box! Technically the popcorn is for the audience but you try sharing popcorn with a 5 year old, LOL!! Maybe you’ll have better luck than me!

The Places, Please! Littles box is perfect for younger kids, they are able to let their imaginations fly (oh to be young again).  The thing you have to remember is that the age difference between 4 and 8 is much bigger than you think. There’s a possibility that one of the books might be too advanced for a 4 year old but perfect for an 8 year old, or vice versa, but in our experience I haven’t found that to be an issue. The only thing that matters is that your kids get up on their feet and exercise their imaginations and creativity. Go with their flow. Even my 2 year old enjoys playing with the costume pieces with her sister. Here she is dressed as a princess dragon from the The Knight and the Dragon box in a little make believe that she and her sister came up with on their own (basically chasing each other around the house roaring like dragons, haha!) but that’s what’s so beautiful about this box. Anyone can play. Yes, mama, even you. 

 

 

ENOUGH ALREADY, YVONNE! HOW DO I GET A PLACES, PLEASE! BOX FOR MY KIDS??

 

Easy! Just visit the Places, Please! website. If you are a Cratejoy fan, you can also find them there. You can order single boxes, subscriptions, acting lessons and extra costumes/props.

Also, BEST NEWS EVER, Lisa and Places, Please! is offering a coupon code for my readers! Just enter the code SAHM20 for a 20% discount off your first box!

Also here’s a little sneak peak from Lisa, herself for March! “The next box is curated from the book, “Louie” by Ezra Jack Keats and will have puppets in it!” OMG PUPPETS. I told you each one just gets better!

As a parent, Places, Please! has helped us tremendously during this pandemic. It’s given us one more way to get out of our house through our imaginations. It’s helped to alleviate the guilt I have over not being able to take the kids outside much during the winter. 

As an actor, it helps me keep in touch with theatre and the performing arts. To be able to share it with my kids who haven’t seen me onstage except for a little local concert pre-pandemic (and they are too young to remember it, anyway), has helped me to process whether or not I still wanted to be an actor, and the answer is still yes. A thousand times, yes.

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