A sold out show at Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods.

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The Filene Center isn't the only place to see a show at Wolf Trap!

The park has a second theater located across the meadow from the Filene Center, nestled in the forest. The Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods rustic amphitheater is the perfect spot for kids and families to enjoy music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater in a picturesque outdoor setting. From June-August, the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods stage features a diverse lineup of mid-morning performances Tuesdays-Saturdays.


A Brief History

Catherine Filene Shouse wanted to create a space where children of all backgrounds could be immersed in nature and the performing arts. The Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods is the most enduring part of this vision but many other children’s programs at Wolf Trap are also part of this legacy. Mrs. Shouse worked with Mary Brown, Mary Frances Pearson, and J. Claire St. Jacques to bring the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods to fruition. Beginning in 1971, children’s theater shows were staged near the Ovations Restaurant at Wolf Trap. In 1975, these shows got a permanent home with a stage constructed in the forest beyond the meadow. However, the theater you see today is actually the second Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap.

The remains of Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods after a fire ravaged it in 1976.
The remains of Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods after a fire destroyed much of it in 1976.

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The original structure burned down on November 18th, 1976 and was rebuilt in 1977. The new theater featured a larger stage (around 30 feet across and 22 feet deep) along with two dressing rooms, wings on both sides of the stage, and plenty of storage space. Recently, the theater received new siding and the plastic decking was replaced with real wood, while the theater’s speakers got a new home in the renovated wings.

Over the past four decades, the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods has hosted local, national, and even international performers, from Grammy Award-winning musicians to puppeteers to dancers of all kinds. It continues to bring the performing arts and the natural world to children and families, keeping Mrs. Shouse’s vision alive.

Four kids watch a show at Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods.

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Shows in the Woods

Seeing a show at the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods is a little bit different from seeing one at the Filene Center. For starters, the Theatre-in-the-Woods is much smaller, with seating for about 800 people. This means that audience members can be closer to the performance, which is often interactive. Additionally, the smaller size of the Theatre-in-the-Woods means that there are fewer personnel needed to put on a show; for example, only one or two audio engineers are present. Finally, while you still need to purchase tickets for Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods shows, there are no reserved seats.

Performances at Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods offer a one-of-a-kind, exciting way to spend a summer morning, and is a beloved tradition of families in northern Virginia!

Last updated: September 28, 2023

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Vienna, VA 22182-1643


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