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Autumn arts programing -- for the kids

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Entertainment,Music,Barbara Mackay

What will the Kennedy Center, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Discovery Theater, the Washington Ballet, the National Gallery of Art, the Goethe-Institut, Hillwood Estate, La Maison Francaise, the Library of Congress, the National Children's Museum, 27 embassies and 25 public libraries celebrate in common from Wednesday through Nov. 14?

If you answered "Kids Euro Festival," you'd be right. For during that period, these major institutions and many more like them will provide the fifth annual presentation of free theater, storytelling, puppetry, mime, dance, magic, cinema and workshops for children, the largest children's performing arts festival in the United States, presented by the 27 member countries of the European Union.

Featuring some of Europe's premiere artists, Kids Euro Festival is designed for children two to 12 years old. "There's a great tradition of this kind of festival throughout Europe," said Marie-Helene Zavala, project manager for the festival.

"We launched this program with the other members of the EU. It was a huge success, so we decided to organize it every year. We have grown from 130 activities in 2008 to 250 this year. We have more partners each year and the audience is really growing. We bring more and more children into the theaters."

Onstage
Kids Euro Festival
Where: Various venues; see website
When: Wednesday through Nov. 14
Info: Free; 202-944-6558; kidseurofestival.org

According to Zavala, the festival would be impossible without their sponsors, who allow the organizers to present the festival for free. Sponsors include: Susan E. Lehrman, H.F. Lenfest, the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, the EU, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, TV 5 Monde, World Travel Service, Dish Network, Churchill Hotel and Washington Parents Magazine.

Asked if she could isolate her favorite performance from all those she has seen, Zavala remembered one from two years ago. "I like shows that open children to creativity," said Zavala. "There was one in which young children sat near a pile of sand. They were mesmerized by the dancers and music around them but clearly struggled not to go into the sand. Afterward, when they were told they could play in the sand, they tried to re-do what they had seen. In this way we know that we have opened the children's eyes."

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