Change of Scenery: Forest Theater Shows to Book Now

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Forests were made for exploring with your sidekick in tow. You’ve hiked the trails, climbed to great heights and scrambled over every boulder that got in your way. But have you ever seen spectacular theater under the shady forest canopy? We’ve got the need to know deets on two forest theaters that really steal the show. Bravo!

Kitsap Forest Theater stage shot Gala Lindvall photo.jpg

photo: Gala Lindvall

Kitsap Forest Theater

A Fairy Tale Find
The Kitsap Forest Theater’s first play was produced in 1923. And although the theater has seen many changes over the past almost hundred years, much has stayed the same. Like the path that leads from the top of the property down to the theater and Chico Creek babbling its applause from the distance. This forest theater is, as The Music Man Director, Craig Schieber points out, a unique experience intertwining theater lovers and forest lovers of all ages. You won’t find an over-sized velvety stage curtain here, or even special lighting affects. But the theater is surprisingly high tech for being in the middle of the forest. See if your little dramatists can spot the mics in the ferns and trees surrounding the stage or figure out where the live stage music is coming from. It’s slight of hand effects like these that engage mini theatergoers in this experience. There’s always something to be on the lookout for!

Music Man KFT Lani Smith

photo: Lani Smith

The Plays
The theater players are putting on two super family friendly shows this season, The Music Man, opening in May, and The Little Mermaid, which opens in late July. Both productions promise familiar stories with a new twist in the sunshine of the open-air theater. Schieber’s fresh approach in directing The Music Man is all about having fun with the play’s language and using the elements of the forest to put on an active, engaging production. As for The Little Mermaid, the cast is chock-full of talent and The Kitsap Forest Theater will be one of the first troupes in the area to put on the show since Disney released the rights last year. We can’t wait to see the way they bring Ariel’s underwater adventures to life in the middle of towering evergreens!

music man boy and man KFT lani smith

photo: Lani Smith

Just for Kids
Experiencing forest theater is one of those times your kidlet can wiggle in his seat and find lots to look at, besides what’s going on on stage. This year, there’s even more for kids to do once the proverbial curtain goes up. At the stage right seating in the back, families will find kids coloring pages, crayons and some other distractions for little dramatists. Sitting there also means you can easily slip out the back and head up trail to look for birds and other woodland critters with antsy kiddos. Pulling out snacks at your seat is a-ok, too. Just remember to pack quiet munchies that won’t distract the actors or other theatergoers, the way a crinkly wrapper would. The concession stand up top is before, during and after the show. It’s easy to grab something here or even take a trip for noshables during the show if your sidekick needs to get moving.

KFT music man photos kids lani smith

photo: Lani Smith

Before and After the Show
It’s easy to make a day of it at the theater. The property is open both before and after the show, and there are plenty of ways you and your sidekick can enjoy the forest. Plan to bring a picnic lunch for your crew. Enjoy it lawn-side, pull up a picnic bench or find a table in the Kitsap Cabin. The cabin is only open pre-show, but it’s a cozy spot to hole up if the minis need a sun (or rain) break. Take a load off on the comfy couch or grab one of their many board games and challenge your sidekick to a few rounds of Sorry or Clue over lunch.

Kitsap Cabin interior KFT

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Just outside the Kitsap Cabin is the Treehouse playground, built recently by volunteers. It’s easy to spend time here while the kiddos swing, climb and cross the hanging bridge over to the two-story fort that could easily be the setting of the Swiss Family Robinson. If your cuties still have energy to play after the Treehouse, take everyone on a hike down to Big Tree, one of the oldest trees on the peninsula. It’s about 20 minutes in either direction, and it’s noticeably steep on the way down. So plan to carry tired toddlers and cheer on your sidekick’s stamina if you take on this additional adventure.

Play structure KFT

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Getting There
The Kitsap Forest Theater is unexpectedly centralized for Seattle families, because no matter where you’re coming from, there’s bound to a be a ferry going that way. Whether you’re riding the Edmonds/Kingston ferry over to north Kitsap, the Bremerton ferry from downtown or the Southworth ferry from the dock in West Seattle, the theater is only a short drive away, off Seabeck Highway. Look for the greeters when you get there. They’ll show you where to park. If you want to save some green on your journey, try driving around and ferrying back. Passengers are free on return trips!

Good to Know:
1) Wear sturdy shoes and leave the stroller in the car, because the quarter-mile hike down sloped switchbacks that end at the theater, is for walking only. We suggest strapping on busy toddlers for the hike. And remember, the trail opens at 1 p.m. for 2 p.m. shows.

2) The show must go on! These are rain or shine productions, so dress for the weather when you go. Rain gear for a typical Pacific Northwest day, and sunscreen, sunglasses and hats when the sun decides to show his brighter side.

3) Just like the forest, the stadium seating is “au natural”: dirt, leaves and pine needles. Bring blankets to sit on or low-backed concert chairs like you would to ZooTunes so everyone will be comfy and cozy during the show.

4) Have your kiddos use the potty up top before heading down the trail. Although there are toilets at the back of the theater, they are rustic pit potties that might be tough (or even a little too different) for minis to use.

5) Since tickets are good for any performance, it’s easy to spontaneously go with the moment, or plan a specific day to catch the production. There’s a small $2 discount on tickets purchased ahead of time and buying for the two-show season will save some green too.

3000 Seabeck Hwy.
Bremerton, Wa 98312
206-542-7815
Tickets: 800-573-8484
Online: foresttheater.com

The Music Man
Dates & Times: 2 p.m. on May 29 & 30; June 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19

The Little Mermaid
Dates & Times: 2 p.m. on July 30 & 31, Aug. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21

Cost: $18/Adults; $10/Youth (6-10); 6 & under Free. Two show season tickets: $34/Adults; $18/Youth (6-10); 6 & under Free

Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater & Family Park

The Theater Experience
The Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater started 51 years ago as part of a church project in downtown Fall City. What was once their children’s theater program has morphed into a forest theater and family park with an eye on education and conservation. Somewhere along the journey, Dick Spady (of drive-in fame) partnered with the group, helping to underwrite some property building projects, and taking an active hand in designing the central fire pit that counts rocks from every continent in its ring. As it stands now, the property is 95 acres of forests, wetlands and wandering wildlife, with an array of amenities for members and ticket holders to use when they visit.

Fiddler stage shot SFFT from FB

photo: Brian Scott

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is this season’s show, and we couldn’t think of a more appropriate setting for the Beast’s taming than in this open-air theater in the woods. It’s sure to include everything your little Disney-ite loves about the movie and then some. Because seeing the show in the middle of the forest is a big part of this experience. There are three show times each weekend of the seven week run, with a matinee each day. That means taking your sidekick is a cinch. And the walk down to the stage is super short, about five minutes, over a paved trail. Seating is first come, first serve. So if prime seats with a back (some have them, some don’t) or seats close to the action are what you’re after, head down on the early side. Be sure to stop by the cabin on the way to grab cushions to sit on. You can bring your own stadium seats if you have them, but chairs aren’t allowed to be used. The gates open at 10 a.m. each day the show runs, and close about an hour after show ends. And tickets will be going on sale soon, so be sure to get on the email list to stay in the know!

Log cabin at Snoqualmie falls theater

photo: Brian Scott

Dramatic Eats
Adding dinner to your ticket is a forest theater tradition that includes delish eats prepared by guest celebrity chefs at the BBQ shelter. It’s a simple extra that equals less planning and when your weekends are always on the go, that’s a good thing. Families can make a dinner reservation online and choose eats too when they buy show tickets. There’s chicken, salmon, steak or veggie lasagna for moms and dads and a hot dog with chips for hungry kiddos. Plus, it’s pretty cool that all the Alderwood used in the wood fire cooking is sourced on the property! Dinner is served between the two shows on Saturdays and after the show on Sundays. You can also pack your own picnic if you want. There are plenty of tables and benches, as well as scenic spots to set out a blanket and enjoy a meal in the fresh air. Before the show and during intermission the group runs a concession stand, with delish eats like pickles on a stick (their biggest seller), ice cream and popcorn. Be sure to bring cash if you plan to munch on these treats.

BBQ pit theater dinner SFFT Brian Scott

photo: Brain Scott

A Show-stopping Family Park
One of the perks of seeing a performance here is spending the day on the property. It’s included with your ticket price. And it can mean just about anything you can imagine on this 95-acre paradise, bordering the Snoqualmie River. Your little monkeys can climb around the play structures and swing on the swings, while you keep watch from nearby picnic benches or take a seat on the lawn. Families can also hike around the property. There are a few different trails that lead down to the majestic falls, with 3/4 miles of beach access too! On a hot day, the whole fam can wade in the water, bring rafts or tubes to cruise off the bank or cool off in the spray of Snoqualmie Falls. There’s also some good fishing in this water, so bring poles or fly rods if you’ve got them. Just remember to pack bathing suits, towels and a change of clothes in the diaper bag before you head out. Everything else you need to tack a riverside adventure on to your forest theater experience is on the property, including showers so you can get everyone clean before heading home.

SFFT playground area from FB

photo: Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater and Family Park Facebook page

One way the Forest Theater and Family Park maintains this gorgeous property and puts on such fantastic shows is through membership support. And if you’ve had a total blast at the theater and would love to use the property whenever the mood strikes, a membership is the way to go. It gives you year-round access to the 14 campsites, theater tickets (2-4 depending on the membership level) and invites to events that were made for families like a winter wreath making class and an egg-citing Easter egg hunt each spring.

Snoqualmie falls from trail access Brian Smith

photo: Brian Smith

36800 David Powell Rd.
Fall City, Wa 98024
425-736-7252
Online: foresttheater.org

Dates & Times: July 23-Aug. 21, Sat., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
Cost: $12/Adults; $8/Kids; 4 & under Free

Do you plan to see any of these productions this summer? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Allison Sutcliffe