Categories: Kristen Schweizer, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Teatro Piñata: An Invitation to Wonder

November 28, 2021

By Kristen Schweizer

The best and the worst of parenting can be expressed in the same sentiment: every phase is just a phase. While growing pains like teething and learning long division are fleeting in retrospect, witnessing a child’s wide-eyed wonder remains forever in a caregiver’s memory. Inspiring such moments of wonder is a cornerstone in the mission of San Diego’s downtown The New Children’s Museum and achieved in their newest installation Teatro Piñata.

Teatro Pinata accomplishes every definition of wonder in engaging my son (and me!) in a behind-the-curtains experience. Inspired by traveling theatre caravans of yore, the on-and-off-stage magic of plays, and – of course – pinatas, families are invited to wonder what secrets lay hidden backstage and to imagine their own stories.

As a mother, my wonder began as wondering if I would fit into a pint-sized ticket booth with my child, followed by an unexpected delight to follow him through a hidden tunnel found within. My four-year-old son marveled at the chance to handle props and puppets he would usually be forbidden from grabbing. It was a welcome change for us both not to stop his natural desire to touch, flick, and fiddle and instead join alongside. Teatro Piñata makes everyone a player; a masterful execution of an entirely enveloping experience that entrances both children and grown-ups alike. 

Multi-disciplinary artist David Israel Reynoso is an award-winning theatrical designer best known for his Obie Award-winning costume designs in Sleep No More and pioneering storytelling with his immersive theatre company OPTIKA MODERNA. Fellow adult fans will recognize nods to past projects. As the father of two young children (to whom he dedicates this work), Reynoso clearly understood the assignment. His signature mysterious aesthetic is not diluted, but it becomes welcoming to the smallest child when influenced by the colorful enigma that is a piñata

A piñata represents a delightful surprise but requires effort. The New Children’s Museum Exhibitions + Fabrication Manager Matt Picon emphasized their attention to resilience-building — inviting children to push themselves past initial doubt when interacting with the work. Like Reynoso’s immersive theatre projects that embolden his adult audience to take risks within his stories, the choice to ‘hide a slide’ inside Teatro Piñata rewards the curiosity of those kids who are brave enough to explore. Whether crawling through a dark space or standing in the spotlight, children are presented with opportunities to be curious and to surprise themselves.

Despite ephemeral appearances, Teatro Piñata is not a one-and-done experience. My son hyped himself up to do a center stage dance (if just for a moment) on our second visit. Clandestine corners reveal themselves to children on their shy days while the trunk of costuming fabric leads to collaborative play with newfound friends. This place is an art adventure to grow alongside through all the phases of childhood.

While one can pass hours within Teatro Piñata, it is a windowless corner of the otherwise light-filled, three-story museum. This holiday season, consider the gift of wonder and lifelong memories to your favorite children and grown-ups with tickets (or annual membership!) to The (wondrous) New Children’s Museum.

Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.