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PICTURE BOOK THEATRE was founded in 2006 by Therese Brady Donohue. After retiring from Amherst Ballet, which Donohue also founded and directed for 34 years, Eric Carle expressed an interest in her costuming.  Gathering up her materials once more, Donohue began to create the masks, costumes, and scenery which had become her trademark, for Eric Carle picture books.


The cast with Eric Carle in the center.

The first production of The Very Lonely Firefly, based on Carle's children's book, followed and heralded the opening of the new Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in 2002. With 13 performances at the museum it played to full houses and introduced a new venue for children's theater. Donohue produced and directed the show collaborating with Massachusetts composer Karen A. Tarlow, and choreographer Catherine Fair, director of Amherst Ballet. Walter Carroll, a local actor and radio music director for WFCR-FM, recorded the narration. All the characters were played by young dancers.

The second production at the Museum was based on Carle's The Honeybee and the Robber. Because the book had moving parts, Donohue created  moving masks and costume parts. Young dancers from Amherst Ballet brought the honeybees, bird, fish and bear to life assisted by choreographer  Catherine Fair. Once again, Karen A. Tarlow composed the score and Walter Carroll recorded the narrated story.

Hermit Crab and the snail hill puppets

After retiring from Amherst Ballet, Donohue continued creating programs at The Eric Carle Museum establishing  PICTURE BOOK THEATRE in 2006. With a  few dancers from Amherst Ballet, Donohue introduced large string puppets to create a unique blend of puppets and dance.  Her first independent production adapted Eric Carle's A House for Hermit Crab. This production  premiered at The Carle Museum with 17 performances over two months of Saturdays giving two shows a day. Money was raised to start the BOOK PROJECT giving  300 free books of the story to the first 300 families to attend. Children followed the story in their book during the show and then had it to take home and reread and relive the experience. A new literacy program was born.

In the fall of 2007, PICTURE BOOK THEATRE premiered  an adaptation of Leo Lionni's Tico and the Golden Wings, again using young dancers and puppets. As with the previous productions, the museum gallery also arranged to exhibit a selection of the original illustrations from the book simultaneously with the two months of performances.  For this production the BOOK PROJECT raised enough contributions to make it possible to hand out 800 Tico books. Again composed by Karen A. Tarlow, the recorded narration was by book author Jane Yolen. Retired teachers from the community were recruited to be trained as puppeteers making the cast intergenerational with dancers as young as nine and puppeteers over sixty.

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Picture Book Theatre is an independent production entity and not a subsidiary of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  Museum related references on this site are used with permission of
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.