While Second Saturday Community Market has been a family-friendly staple of downtown Meadville for nine years, it's never hosted something quite like this.

Joining Meadville Council on the Arts, Meadville Community Theatre and French Creek Community Theatre, Second Saturday hosts the inaugural Children's Theater Festival, starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

All three arts organizations present one-act fables, fairy tales and poetry for children of all ages. A $10 ticket grants holders admittance to all three shows. The last show begins at 12:30 p.m.

Ticket proceeds from the theater festival support Autism Speaks of Western Pennsylvania. Autism Speaks will also put on activities and offer information for parents. Like Second Saturdays of the past, vendors, live music, food and craft activities will run along Chestnut Street, but sensory friendly areas at the festival will be incorporated and designated with large blue puzzle pieces.

Meadville Council on the Arts presents “Fables by Thurber," a collection of surprising tales by James Thurber, at the Gardner Theatre on the second floor of the Market House, 910 Market St. The performance is sensory friendly.

Meadville Community Theatre then shows “Shel Silverstein on Stage" at the Downtown Mall stage, bringing the colorful poet's writings to life.

French Creek Community Theatre presents “Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales” on the second floor of 287 Chestnut St.

Each show runs between 15 and 30 minutes and will be performed multiple times for audiences to make the rounds and see all three.

Geoff Hall, a festival co-organizer, had been to a children's theater festival in Pittsburgh earlier this year with Alicia Greathouse, who is co-directing "Fables by Thurber" with Hall and Hall's father, Tom. Geoff said they thought the format, where families enter and exit off the street to see other performances, was something that could work in Meadville.

"I think this festival is important for Meadville to have because we’re showing community spirit," Hall said. "All these organizations, all these vendors, everybody is coming together for one cause. They’re coming together to entertain children and help out Autism Speaks."

Hall also said this is the first time three of the local theater organizations have "truly collaborated" to present a project, not just lending out props or costumes. He also remarked about the positive experience working with Heather Fish, who organizes each Second Saturday Community Market.

"It’s been great working with (Fish)," Hall said. "She’s bringing in a lot of vendors. She’s bringing in face painting and (magician) Magic Steve and all those cool events, which we couldn’t have done without her support. We are hoping that this will become a tradition every summer — that we will do a big theater festival like this."

Fish was excited to see some of the local theaters collaborating on a project and donating proceeds to Autism Speaks. She was also hoping it would bring awareness to the different theatrical options around Meadville and encourage a family-friendly atmosphere.

"I'm hoping it'll be our kids market," Fish said. "I have a few youth vendors with things made for kids by kids. I'm hoping there will be a lot more families than we usually see."

In addition to the one-act plays, music at Saturday's market will be provided by John, Richard and Jordan from 9-10:30 a.m., Frank Marzano from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Jay Bird and Haley Bee from 12:30-2 p.m.

Tickets for the theater shows may be purchased in advance at the Meadville Council on the Arts offices on the second floor of the Market House or on the day of at the ticket booth near the corner of Market and Chestnut streets, across from where the musicians perform.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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