By Lisa Shara and Daria O’Brien; Published in North State Parent, January 2014
The Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater is a proposed 800-seat theater designed specifically for child-centered performing arts programs and educational opportunities. The theater will be the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum-level certified children’s theater in the world, demonstrating environmentally sustainable construction and technologies.
While the North State community has made strides in offering performance options for children, North State schools are underserved by way of opportunities for children to experience cultural performances in a setting where they can also learn all aspects of performance arts. Performances held in gymnasiums and multi-purpose rooms do not offer a full opportunity for enriched hands-on theater-arts experiences.
The Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater will complement existing theaters that often are not truly appropriate for local youth productions, due to facility size, structure or cost. The few school system performance facilities currently available are not able to accommodate the demand for performance reservations.
Not only will the theater be child-friendly, but every aspect of each youth performance will be child-produced. The venue will provide an educational environment where children can learn all facets of stage production, using state-of-the-art technology in a safe and eco-friendly environment. There will be multiple stages and adjustable seating arrangements to uniquely accommodate each production.
The theater’s name was inspired by children. On a beautiful September morning in 2012, the theater’s architect, James Theimer, met with a group of creative and inspired youth, leading 50 sets of eager eyes, ears and feet around the theater’s site. He asked the children what they wanted to name it. “Barbie,” “Batman” and “Spiderman” Theater were popular requests, as was “Unicorn Theater.”
Obviously the facility can’t be called the Spiderman or Batman Theater, but the children’s ideas were taken to heart, inspiring an imaginative concept of combining two names and images.
Here is where the raven enters, a bird many cultures point to as a harbinger of powerful secrets. Moreover, the raven is also known as a messenger; it both keeps and communicates deep mysteries. The mythical unicorn, championed by children, is described as a wild woodland creature and a symbol of magic, good, purity and grace.
And so, Raven and the Unicorn is a unique name connecting opposite principles: black and white, yang and yin, real and mythical. It creates a powerful image representing a one-of-a kind theater.
The Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater will be located at 959 Inspiration Way in Redding, California, near Redding School of the Arts. The theater property has been donated by the McConnell Foundation, and architectural schematic designs have been completed. Funds of $1,492,000 have been raised to date, and fundraising continues, with $290,000 more needed to achieve the goal of breaking ground by the fall of 2014. A remainder of $10 million will come through private and corporate grants.
Find more information about the theater online at www.ravenandtheunicorn.org, or contact Margaret Johnson, co-director of Redding School of the Arts at (530) 225-8610, or Daria O’Brien, the theater’s capital campaign director at (530) 515-1057.