Brainstorm Theater! KID CITY's first week at John Glenn Middle School!

Teaching artist Shari, Ifrah and Derek working the students from Brainstorm Theater.

Teaching artist Shari, Ifrah and Derek working the students from Brainstorm Theater.

Hello KID CITY Friends! 

Gaosong here with you weekly blog! As you may or may not know, KID CITY has been BUSY BUSY BUSY as we get ready for our 2nd Annual KID CITY LAUGH IN! (which you are all welcome to join us for, Saturday April 1st, 2017 at the Maplewood Community Center/YMCA.) ;) 

Join us all for the Laugh IN, April 1st 4-6 pm at the Maplewood Community Center/MCC! 

Join us all for the Laugh IN, April 1st 4-6 pm at the Maplewood Community Center/MCC! 

However, that does not mean that we have forgotten about our teaching residencies!

Last week marked our 2nd week at John Glenn Middle School, doing teaching residencies with their after school TOPS programs. 

The TOPS Program is an after school program open to all students at John Glenn Middle School. TOPS features a wide variety of classes that offer students additional learning opportunities. The TOPS program consists of non-traditional classes that are not offered during a regular school day.

Now, we are hosting two different residencies, one of them is Brainstorm Theater and the other is KID CITY COUNCIL. Today's blog will feature our first 2 weeks working with the students in Brainstorm Theater. 

However, if you want to learn more about KID CITY COUNCIL, read my previous blog here

Brainstorm Theater is inspired by Brazilian Theater Maker turned politician Augusto Boal, whom created Theater of the Oppressed. In our KID CITY reinterpretation, Brainstorm Theater is does the following: 

  • Jump into scenes of conflict to re-wind and re-write the outcomes in order to rehearse revolution that will empower our lives. 

At the end of our 5 sessions, we will have a final scene and performance, which will be presented to other students within the TOPS Program at John Glenn Middle School. 

However, there is a lot go planning, play and discussion that goes into creating a performance! 

Right now, we are in our planning stages. 

This involves lots of warm up exercises that include Image Theater (featured above) and Dynamizing. Both of these forms of theater are used to enhance and expand our brains to think and strategize in new, creative ways. 

As we each went around the circle, we shared experiences of times that we felt we were wronged, or stories where the outcome was unjust for ourselves, I just knew this performance is going to be powerful.

There were stories of lost friendships, bullying and mistaken identity, all resulting in an outcome, that was not favorable to our students. However, with Brainstorm Theater, we want to change these outcomes in the future!

Next week, we will work together to finalize 2-3 stories that we can then create a scene for. All the students will be in leadership positions when creating scenes; as the directors, actors and creating an improved script for the performance.

As we move forward, I am very excited to see how the scenes will grow and how these students will revision the outcomes to these stories, so they can empower themselves in the future. 

So stay tuned! Because at the end of the 5 weeks, I will feature a whole VIDEO about the experience, so you can see the whole journey! 

If you want to read more about Brainstorm Theater and our experiences at other schools, click here

Again! I would just like to take this moment to say, thank you for joining me today and I hope to see you all at the Laugh IN for our Joke Swap Competition and for a whole day filled with FREE FAMILY FUN!

Need inspiration for the Joke Swap Competition!? Then check out the poster below!

OR, For more information to the Laugh IN, please click on this link to the FB Event Page!

I'll see you all soon!






KID CITY Joke Swap Challenge! Who Will Come Out Winning!

KID CITY Laugh IN Flier! 

KID CITY Laugh IN Flier! 


Gaosong here and have I missed you all! 1 week and a half is too long to be away from you all. I have such exciting news! Today, March 1st, 2017, MARKS THE OFFICIAL START OF KID CITY'S JOKE SWAP CHALLENGE!


The Joke Swap Challenge is a friendly competition between the Maplewood City Council and the Maplewood Police Department, to see who can collect the funniest joke and be declared the winners of the 2nd annual Joke Swap Challenge!

The purpose of the Joke Swap is to engage all of Maplewood in laughter and play. Last year the Maplewood Police Department took first place with the funniest joke, as determined by the audience!

Will the Police Department be victorious again, or will the City Council have a roaring win!?

Here is the framework to the Joke Swap!

1) If you meet a member of City Council or the Maplewood Police Department, ask about this form!

City Council will have a yellow version, while the Police Department will have a blue version!

3) Fill out the form and BRING YOUR JOKE THE THE LAUGH IN!

4) Winners of the Joke Swap must be present at the Laugh IN to receive a prize.


6 Semi-finalist will get Skating Passes to Saints North AND The Grand Prize is a free Splash Bath Birthday Party at the Maplewood Community Center/YMCA, as well as a photo with Mayor Slawick and Police Chief Schnell, which will be published within Maplewood Living!

If you need Inspiration follow #KIDCITYjoke or call our Joke Hotline at 651-432-4004 to hear our weekly joke!? Want to be featured? Tell us your joke by tweeting your joke to #KIDCITYjoke or #KIDCITYMN

So have fun! And submit as many jokes as you'd like! 

City Council and the Maplewood Police Department have officially 31 days to get all you wonderful people to the Laugh IN with your BEST JOKE! 

Who will you give your joke to?

Till next week! I leave you with the winning joke from last year's Joke Swap Competition! 

"What chews wood and loves to sing? JUSTIN BEAVER!"

See you all soon!


KID CITY's Week at Weaver!

Hello KID CITY Friends! 

Gaosong here with this week's blog! I am so sorry I missed you all last week. I was extremely busy because KID CITY was teaching at Weaver Elementary all last week! 

Yes! Everyday for 5 days, KID CITY Artists taught 4 different classes! Totaling 20 sessions! Every single day the artists taught from 12:30-3:30 pm and WE HAD SO MUCH FUN! 

Even with such a short amount of time, and a lot to accomplish, I feel the art we created and connections we made will inspire all the students for a lifetime!

The two residencies we did at Weaver included (1) Videography and (2) My City Park Proposal. 

The Videography program was designed for the 5th graders in the "Leader In Me Program." For 5 days, during their lunch period, the group of 12 students met the teaching artists in a classroom. Here, they learned the fundamentals of videography using IPADS, such as storyboarding, frame composition and lighting. As well as the fundamentals of video editing with IMovie: sound/audio, trimming, text and titles. 

Most importantly though, the Videographers learned how to tell their own stories and tell the stories of others, like a documentary! 

This whole residency was very hands on, with specific prompts that asked the students to film, direct and operate the camera within 5-10 mins and then edit the videos right afterwards. 

Each group consisted of 3-4 students and had the opportunity to work with their very own teaching artists for the duration of the residency. 

The end goal of this residency was to have the 5th grade students go in, film and edit the forth graders City Park Proposals.

And boy! Did they do a great job! Since each group had 3-4 students, every time a new proposal came onto the set, the videographers got a chance to switch roles; Director, Cinematographer (2), Camera Operator. The final day of the residency, the videographers had the opportunity to edit 1 of the videos, which was later on presented to the 4th graders!

It was extremely important for KID CITY to challenge the students and to set realistic goals for them to achieve. Within 5 days, these 12 students went from never have filmed anything, to learning how to plan a video by storyboarding, filming an entire performance, editing videos and having a well-made finished product. The KID CITY Artists could not be more proud of them and their work! 

Let's move on to the 4th grade residency! 

"My City Park Proposal" was a residency done with 3 different forth grade classes. Each class had 4 groups, totaling 12 proposals for different City Parks all around Maplewood. 

The challenge for the 4th graders was to see how they could use ART to bring people together in the Parks. 

 The four main parks we focused on were: Wakefield Park, Geranium Park, Joy Park and Applewood Park. With only 5 days to create a proposal, design our Toy Theaters, film and watch the finished product, there was no time to waste! 

Every group had different ideas for their park. Some wanted to have statues that celebrated children and diversity. Some had practical ideas, like adding in water fountains, 1 for adults and 1 for kids. Others wanted to build a unicorn roller coaster. One group even proposed having a library, in a tree house, so she and others could read their favorite books at the park! 

Excuse me. But WHO WOULD SAY NO TO A TREE HOUSE AND A LIBRARY AT THE PARK! I would love any of those options, but the both of them together are perfect! 

It was such a pleasure to see how the students worked together to discuss barriers within the community, but also how we can bring people together using art in public spaces. I am sure the other teaching artists can attest to this, but I saw many of my students from each class blossoming over the 5 day residency. 

A special thank you note from one of the students from Ms. Her's class. 

A special thank you note from one of the students from Ms. Her's class. 

Even if the students cannot see or feel the impact art can have on community building in Maplewood, I hope they can see how our few short days together, making art and innovating ways to create a better Maplewood, has built a stronger community within their own classrooms.

A huge thank you to all the staff, students and Principle Xiong from Weaver! It would not have been possible without all of you!

To see more videos from the residency, click on this link HERE!

Till next week! 

Enjoy this beautiful Spring Friday!

Spring time brings KID CITY to John Glenn Middle School!


Is it just me, or has Minnesota officially said goodbye to winter? Well, I for one am NOT going to complain about that. I love the spring, for 2 reasons: 

1) The flowers start to bloom and it is a beautiful sight to see!


Yes, you heard me correctly! This Spring, KID CITY will be hosting two different after school programs with John Glenn Middle School. Although technically we will be starting at the end of February, with all this sun, let's call it Spring! 

This is KID CITY's first time partnering with John Glenn Middle School and everyone on the team could not be more excited. 

FUN FACT! I went to John Glenn Middle school from 6th-8th grade! 

I know right! Yes, I went to Weaver Elementary and John Glenn Middle School, two schools that we are indeed partnering with this year. Ya'll! I grew up in Maplewood as a child! You have no idea how excited I am to be teaching in John Glenn this year! I mean, we all are excited, but I am extra happy about this partnership, because John Glenn is a great school!

John Glenn's theme for the 2016-2017 school year is "Whatever It Takes!" Which means that the school administration, teachers, staff and support liasions will work closely with students everyday to help them be successful and achieve A's, B's and C's in all their classes. 

This goal wants EVERY STUDENT to be academically successful and we at KID CITY couldn't agree more!

I believe the programs we are bringing to John Glenn will support the students to become independent thinkers and use art and theater as a means to be creative problem solvers, furthering their abilities to be successful students! 

The two after school residencies we are offering this year are: 


  • Together, we will jump into scenes of conflict to re-wind and re-write the outcomes in order to rehearse revolution that will empower our lives.

  • Want to learn more about Brainstorm Theater? Read my previous blog about the program here!


  • Students will use Toy theaters to work together researching and creating a performance that highlights the work of other youth or youth organizations in Maplewood that make a positive impact in their communities. These performances will be recorded and then presented to the Maplewood City Council!
  • Want to learn more about Toy Theaters? Read my previous blog here!


KID CITY is honored and cannot wait to partner with John Glenn Middle School. I just know this residency is going to allow each student to grow and blossom into the unique flower he or she was always meant to be. 

Till next week all you beautiful KID CITY Flower-ers (get it? Like "Followers?" The joke would probably be funnier if I didn't explain it, but I just really want you to appreciate the pun ahaha) 

Sib Nsib Duas! [Good bye in Hmong :) ]


Come find KID CITY at Weaver Elementary!


Who would have ever thought that January would have come and gone so quickly! Everyone here at KID CITY is so excited for all the amazing things that are coming up this spring. One being KID CITY's upcoming residency at Weaver Elementary in Maplewood! 

Fun fact! I actually attended this elementary school for 5th grade! Yes, folks! I am indeed an alumni of this fine school and couldn't be happier to be back in this school teaching with our amazing artist team. 

Last year was KID CITY's first time working with Weaver Elementary, as we came into their after school programs and performed Laugh Labs, discovering laughter and community with the help of our wonderful audience members. 

We loved it so much, we had to come back!

Get to know Weaver and all the reasons we adore working with them!

With such a fine structure in place for their students to succeed, KID CITY wanted to make sure all the programs we brought in would compliment the skills and knowledge they are already learning in school. This year, we are hosting three different full length residencies: 

1) My City Park Proposal (4th grade)

  • Students work in groups to build Toy Theaters of your dream Maplewood CITY PARK. These Toy Theaters will be performed by the 4th graders and recorded by our Videography students (see below) and presented to the Maplewood City Council!

2) Videography Program (5th graders in the Leader In Me Program)

  • Students will learn the art of storytelling through video and video editing with tasks to document their own lives and their peers living in Maplewood! 

3) Laugh Labs (After School Targeted Learning Program)

  • Students will work together to design Weaver's very own, Laughter Museum (An installation art-piece that captures all the diverse laughs and faces that make up Maplewood's beautiful community) that will be on display in Maplewood!

I am not going to get into too much detail about every single program this week, because I want to save all the juicy details for when we actually go into the school! 

Although our residency does not officially begin till Feb. 6th, we are so excited to have the opportunity to partner with Weaver Elementary again. BUT THAT'S NOT EVEN THE BEST PART!

Weaver Beaver's Principle Pangjua Xiong, is one of the newest additions to KID CITY's Advisory Committee Family! 

Minnpost Photo by Eric Hinrichs

Minnpost Photo by Eric Hinrichs


I know. How lucky are we at KID CITY? I cannot wait to see all the amazing things that are going to happen within this residencies AND with Principle Xiong as a part of KID CITY's Advisory Committee!

Till next week,

Stay gnawing for Knowledge! 


Spotlight on CELLULA! Z-Puppets gets Glowing with CELLULA! Puppets and Music, Mitosis, OH MY!

Hello my fellow KID CITIANS! 

Gaosong here with your weekly blog, and do I HAVE A GOOD ONE FOR YOU TODAY! 

Today's blog is a special SPOTLIGHT and EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW about CELLUA! Produced by Chris Griffith and Shari Aronson, KID CITY Partners and Z-Puppets' Co-Creative Directors! As well as In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre! 

Cellula is like a bedtime story as told by biologists, illuminating the true marvels of cell science inside of all of us. This innovative show uses dazzling glow in the dark puppetry and live accapella music to tell the story of Mitosis! 

Yeah, I said Mitosis! (featured above).

This performance is directed by master puppeteer Kurt Hunter and features highly acclaimed improvisational vocalists Mankwe Ndosi and Libby Turner with blacklight puppetry from our very own, award winning, favorite Creative Director duo, SHARI AND CHRIS! 

Now, raise your hand if you remember learning about Mitosis in middle school? (Me! Pick me!) 

Very good, now raise your hand if you actually remember what Mitosis IS. 


Yeah, I don't remember either. Here's a refresher in case you have forgotten, OR if this is your first microscopic lesson on Mitosis (Get it? See what I did there? Microscope, cells. CELLULA. Microscopic, because this is a tiny lesson?)

Definition courtesy of

Definition courtesy of

Now that we are all on the same page, let's dive right into the interview with Shari and Chris!

1) What was your inspiration for Cellula?

I wanted to create an experience for kids that conjured the same feeling of awe and wonder that I had when I first looked through a microscope with my mother. My father, my mother and most of the 2 generations before me are all scientists. People often overlook how close and deep the connections are between science and art. Cellula is an homage to my family lineage, my DNA!

2) What is the coolest thing you have learned about Cells in this process?

There are so many amazing facts about cells! I find it fascinating that cells signal each other and the different agents of action (like DNA and RNA) within their own membranes to communicate their readiness to move onto the next phase or to express or suppress the genes written into the codes of their DNA.

3) If you had to use 3 words to describe the show, what would those words be and why?

Joyous, swirl, mama Cellula is a joyous swirl of color and music in celebration of science. The show is like looking through the lens of a microscope along with a mother and her child. It is like a bedtime story as told by biologists.

Wow! CELLULA sounds SO AMAZING! I love how this show was inspired by memories Shari has of her parents. This would also be a wonderful show to share with your family. Even more though, just imagine all that you are going to learn about Mitosis (and I promise it will be more fun than that definition I posted above.)

I am so excited to see CELLULA on opening weekend and you can too! To buy your tickets today click on this link -->

Lastly, if you come an hour early for each show, you can explore the Microscope Fun Gallery! FREE, Hands-on activities with state of the art, vintage magnification devices hosted by volunteers from the MN Microscopy Society, MIA and Mill City Museum!

Congrats again to Z-Puppets and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre for your amazing production of CELLULA. KID CITY is so lucky to have Chris and Shari's creative minds' and playful hearts' guiding our programs, every step of the way!

For more details about CELLULA, keep scrolling down or visit the Facebook invite at

Till next week! 

Have a Ctellula Weekend!


Purchase your tickets here:

Tickets: $15
Children: $8

  • Friday, January 27: 7pm
  • Saturday, January 28: 2pm* and 7pm
  • Sunday, January 29: 2pm**
  • Friday, February 3: 7pm
  • Saturday, February 4: 2pm* and 7pm
  • Sunday, February 5: 2pm**

Recommended for ages 5 and up

* Saturday matinees are pay-what-you-can at the door
** All matinees are sensory-friendly

Show Length: 50 minutes - no intermission

Who is this new face in KID CITY!?

Hello KID CITY friends! 

We are all so excited to introduce one of our newest members to KID CITY's Advisory Committee members: Maplewood Police Officer, PAM VANG! 

Yes, yes, it's true! And I know what some of you are thinking, 

"What is the KID CITY Advisory Committee?"

Great question! As some of you may know, KID CITY is a partnership between Z-Puppets Rosenschnoz and Maplewood Parks and Recreation.

However, KID CITY has a lot of help and guidance from our Advisory Committee, which consists of many professionals that live or work all around Maplewood, including teachers, principles, Government staff and even the Mayor of Maplewood, Nora Slawik! 

We all work together to advise and support KID CITY to be the best it can be! 

KID CITY is so excited to have Officer Pam Vang represent the Maplewood Police Department and KID CITY in this upcoming year of programming and events. 

So let's all get to know her and give her a warm welcome into the KID CITY family! 

Officer Vang grew up in Saint Paul, MN and always knew that she wanted to serve and give back to her community, the only question was: "how?"

In high school, she worked at the Maplewood Mall as a mall security. This is where her career in serving and protecting first began, as Officer Vang get to work side by side with the Maplewood Police Force as mall security.



When Officer Vang graduated from Arlington High School in Saint Paul, she prepared to continue her education by studying Criminology and Law Enforcement from the University of Minnesota Duluth. There she realized she was very passionate about victim advocacy and decided to pursue this career full time. When she graduated from school, she returned to the Maplewood Police Department as a community service officer, which includes (but is not limited to) performing work such as administrative tasks or animal control. 

Since then, she has been a sworn officer for 2 years with the Maplewood Police Department and of course, now an advisor for KID CITY! When asked what is something that most people wouldn't know about Officer Vang, she told us, 

"I love kids!"

and went to explain that she has always wanted to work with kids and if she was not a police officer, that she would be working directly with children, perhaps in the social system of government. 

(Isn't that SO PERFECT! I mean, we ARE KID CITY after all!)

As we finished up, Officer Vang wanted us all to know, 

"I'm excited to be a part of this, I've always wanted to do community outreach events," 

and we want to let you know Officer Vang, that WE are all excited to have you be a part of KID CITY and all the ways you will help us grow in the future! 

Three cheers for KID CITY and all of our amazing Advisory Committee Members! 

Hip-hip HOORAY! Hip-hip HOORAY! Hip-hip HOORAY!

I'll see you next week folks!


Spotlight on KID CITY Teaching Artist: IFRAH MANSOUR and "How to Have Fun in a Civil War."


Gaosong here with an extra special blog today as we do a SPOT LIGHT FEATURE on KID CITY teaching artist, Ifrah Mansour! 

Ifrah has been a teaching artist with KID CITY for 2 years now and the team is bigger, brighter and more beautiful because of all the experience, skills and stories she has to share. ONE of these stories is "How to Have Fun in a Civil War" a one-act, one-woman multimedia performance, created by none-other than our IFRAH! (Whoop! Whoop!) 

Not only is Ifrah a KID CITY teaching artist, she is also a a Somali playwright and performer based in Minnesota. The first version of this play was performed at the MN State Fair in 2015 and on that marvelous day, Ifrah became the FIRST SOMALI AMERICAN ARTIST TO EVER PERFORM AT THE FAIR. Let me repeat, EV-ER

Since then, "How to Have Fun in a Civil War" has grown into a 70 minute show, where a 7 year old Ifrah recounts her childhood memories of the 1991 Somali civil war. This play counteracts violent history with humor as a young, blissful Ifrah and the lost voices of community narratives and children's stories are brought to light. Last October, she premiered this play at the Children's Theater Company for two shows. Luckily, you can catch the show this Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm! Hurry, before the tickets sell out!

KID CITY is honored to have such a kind, conscious, revolutionary AND giving artist and theater maker in the midst of our talented and humble team. 

Good luck this weekend Ifrah! We are all cheering you on!

For more information about the show, Ifrah's work, or how to purchase YOUR ticket, please keep reading below! 

Till next time!




Ifrah Mansour is a Minnesota-based Somali multimedia artist, performer, and teacher. She uses art to bridge cultures and generations. Media coverage includes “Minneapolis Artist Sews New Somali History that Crosses Generations” by the Star Tribune, “Ifrah Mansour Explores War from a Child’s Perspective” by City Pages, “Performance and Prevention” by Minnesota Daily and “Ten Somali artists & entertainers to watch in 2015” by Okayafrica. Recent art and performance works include Somalia’s Balloon, Lablaab the Spill, Drones and Fargans, Isug, Corn for Ayayo, and A stray film.

How to Have Fun in a Civil War

Written & performed by Ifrah Mansour

Directed By Lindsey Cacich

Sound Design By Peter Morrow

Poems by Ahmed Ismail Yousuf



Fifteen anonymous community interviewees, and Ahmed Yusuf.

Support Team: Julia Opoti, Ayantu Ayana, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, Leah Honsky, Deborah Girdwood and Owen Bradford

  • Best enjoyed by ages 6 and up
  • January 6-8
  • Cohen Stage, Children’s Theatre Company (note: Entrance is CTC’s STAGE DOOR)
  • Runtime: Approximately 50 minutes, no intermission



Brown Paper Tickets

1(800) 838-3006

Facebook Event listing

Cost: $12.99-15.00; Children under age 6 receive free admission