Next Gen Events

Upcoming Events

It's Okay to Be Different - Stories by Todd Parr

January 17 | 10:00AM - SOLD OUT & 12:30PM - SOLD OUT
Grades PreK - 3 

Three contemporary stories by New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Todd Parr have been adapted and staged by Mermaid Theatre for the 2022-2023 season. With his signature blend of playfulness and sensitivity, Todd Parr explores important and timely subjects. It's Okay to be Different cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and self-confidence. Equally whimsical and heartfelt, The Earth Book is a sweet homage to our beautiful planet inspiring readers of all ages to do their part to keep the Earth happy and healthy. This is My Hair is a funny exploration of how silly hair can be and that no matter how your hair looks, always feel good about yourself. 

It’s Okay to Be Different –Stories by Todd Parr will feature an innovative approach to puppetry manipulation and construction, combined with playful original music for which the company has earned worldwide praise.

Themes: self-acceptance, self-confidence, understanding, and caregiving. 

 Register Preview VideoClassroom ActivitiesInterview with Mermaid Theatre's Jim Morrow

Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra Presents: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey

January 27 | 12:30PM - SOLD OUT
Grades 7 - 9

The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra’s "Legends & Mysteries" educational concert series combines history, music, and so much more. The co-presentation of live video, theater, and exhilarating orchestral music enables associative learning by helping to connect ideas and experiences that will promote intellectual curiosity. 

The 2023 feature of our "Legends & Mysteries" educational series is Shackleton’s Incredible Journey, which focuses on the gripping story of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance voyage, shipwreck, and subsequent rescue mission. Shackleton was one of the principal figures in the age of Antarctic exploration. Shackleton's ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice in January 1915 and remained stuck until October, when the ice closed in and crushed it. Shackleton and his men then camped on the ice until April, 1916 (for over a year!), when the floe broke up, and they were forced to sail in three lifeboats to Elephant Island. Almost 500 days had passed since they had stood on dry land. At that point, Shackleton and a few of his men made the 800-mile journey in a tiny boat, the James Caird, back to South Georgia, where he got help and returned to Elephant Island to rescue his crew. Miraculously, after nearly two years of being shipwrecked, every single one of them had survived.

Shackleton’s Incredible Journey focuses on his amazing leadership traits. In this heroic tale, Shackleton brought each of his crewmen back from 21 months of seemingly endless points of peril to survive against all odds. Musical selections from classical to 20th-century orchestral masterpieces represent these leadership traits, including a sense of purpose, loyalty, optimism, ingenuity, and responsibility. Audiences are given an immersive musical experience as they watch the story of Shackleton unfold through the series of scenes with both live actors on stage as well as original film footage captured by filmmaker and photographer Frank Hurley. 

Themes: courage, exploration, self-confidence, decision-making, loyalty, friendship.

Curriculum Resources

Interlochen Arts Academy’s Cinderella

February 16 | 12:30PM - SOLD OUT
Grade 5 - 8

Witness an enchanting adaptation of a timeless fairy tale as Interlochen Arts Academy dance students perform Cinderella. When Cinderella’s cruel stepsisters bar her from attending the prince’s ball, a mysterious fairy godmother appears to transform her from pauper to princess. But there’s a catch: the spell will expire when the clock strikes midnight. Featuring lush scenic design, exquisite costumes, exceptional dancing, and Sergei Prokofiev’s beloved score, Cinderella will leave you breathless—and make you believe in magic.

Themes: family, resilience, and self-confidence.

Study Guide

The Lightning Thief

April 10 | 10:00AM & 12:30PM
Grades 4 - 7

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school. Again. And that’s the least of his troubles.

Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. Worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy has ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief. He must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. Adapted from the book, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Themes: Greek mythology, identity, tradition, friendship, and compassion.

Register Study Guide

Past Next Gen Events

Human[kind] Cinema Series: The Book Thief

Middle and High School Students

The first Human[kind] Cinema Series sold out in three hours and stayed sold out despite Mother Nature forcing a reschedule!

A full house of middle and high school students from our 5-county region came together for the powerful cinematic story, The Book Thief, based on Martin Zusak’s book of the same name. Set in WWII Germany, the story’s nuanced consideration of character struggles and its consideration of what it means to belong were catalysts for students to explore their own senses of well-being, empathy, courage, and belonging.

This powerful new series returns November, 2023, with the film Hidden Figures and with generous support from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee. The Human[kind] Cinema Series was created to directly support teachers and students in addressing the Michigan Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Competencies, which are integral for students’ positive mental health and for an inclusive, supportive, school environment.

Teachers continue to express gratitude that the Center is utilizing performing arts and curricular resources (pre- and post-film) to support schools’ efforts to address SEL standards. It takes the work of an entire community to raise happy, productive, kind adults ready to lead with courage, vision, and empathy; Next Gen is honored to play a small role in that essential work.

Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide

Grades K - 3

Literature meets the stage meets oh-so-catchy tunes with Junie B’s Essential Survival Guide to School! Next Gen proudly kicked off its 2022-2023 season on October 24 with two sold-out shows of this creative, relatable show that reminds everyone how challenging and rewarding first grade can be.

Young students (grades K – 3) from five counties (Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Otsego) were able to join us for an uplifting, teensy-bit raucous, incredibly witty event that saw Junie B. Jones come to life in her bestest, red-dressed, sassy way!

Collision of Rhythm

Middle and High School Students

Bronkar Lee and Aaron Grooves brought the rhythm and moves - and an inspiring dose of positivity! – to the stage for a matinee, a family evening performance, and an incredible student workshop in between!

High energy is an understatement for this dynamic duo, who deftly cover genres from jazz to hiphop to classical and prodigiously play a wide array of instruments from Native American flute to marimba, saxophone, drums, and, though it’s tough to decipher into which box it fits, beatboxing! These guys whipped up what felt like a 7-course meal of musical innovation, combining styles, talents and instrumentation I’m betting many of us had never even imagined – beatboxing while playing the flute?! Who knew?! And it sounded so cool, too!

Bronkar and Aaron worked on building community through body percussion during their student workshop, where kids were able to explore a combination of rhythm rule-following and percussive improv. These performances were just such fun and so creative; the audience could watch them shaping the act as the act unfolded.

Collision of Rhythm brought Northern Michigan a fantastic amalgam of brilliance, creativity, inspiration, warmth, kindness, and a bit of philosophy for good measure! This was a ton of summer family fun! What more can you ask for?!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Pre-School through 2nd Grade 

Hundreds of pre-school through second-grade students from 15 regional schools alighted at the Center for the two soul-warming matinees of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!), based on the popular children’s book of the same name.

This free Next Gen event marked the first time GLCFA has hosted an event from The Kennedy Center. The performance definitely lived up to their reputation for all-out excellence in youth theater, from set design and lighting to author Mo Willems’ witticisms and genre-spanning music!

Pigeon’s colorful characters gave everyone someone to relate to, and the performers delivered a jazzy burst of positivity while sharing a powerful message of self-expression and finding one’s dreams while staying true to yourself.

The excitement in the crowd was as clear as Pigeon’s passion for driving the bus, and the enthusiasm was, similarly, palpable. Happiness and joy were everywhere – flying around like a super-hero bird in the air!

Warriors Don't Cry

Warriors Don't Cry


The Great Lakes Center for the Arts was pleased to welcome 485 students and chaperones from four school districts and three homeschool families to the venue for two matinee performances of Warriors Don’t Cry, a theatrical performance based on the memoir by Melba Patillo Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine in the mid-1950s.

The performance was a powerful monologue set inside a school, in which the actor embodied both a present-day 15-year-old and an elderly Melba Patillo Beals. Parallels were drawn between fighting to end mass shootings (particularly in schools) and fighting for black students’ rights to integrate into Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the years 1954-1957.  

Copies of the Paul Fleischman book, Seedfolks, were given to every student and educator who attended, thanks to a generous donation from Fernanda Fisher and the Robert Jensen Dau Foundation.

School House Rock Live!

History, Science, Grammar
Elementary Students Attended

School House Rock Live brought history, science, and grammar to life for more than 1000 students and educators at two packed shows!

Fun and learning complement each other well, and this theatrical production of classic animated standbys from the 1970s reminded all of us how cool it is to know stuff!

An educator shared a story about an upper elementary student who, after the performance, said, “I LOVED IT!” The teacher’s heart was “warmed.. because this is a student who rarely gets excited about anything.”

The Center’s Dorothy Gerber Strings Program, led by Dr. David Reimer and Ms. Trisha Berquist, put on a beautiful and inspiring pre-show performance.

When it’s right, it’s just right. And Schoolhouse Rock Live! reminded everyone how right it is to have fun learning!

“We came back to school and had to take our weekly grammar test. One student turned in her paper and said, ‘that was easy! I kept singing the songs from Schoolhouse Rock, and it helped me know all the answers!’ And, it did! She scored 100%!”

Area Educator

Interlochen Ballet Romeo and Juliet

Middle and High School Students Attended

The Great Lakes Center for the Arts welcomed 300 middle and high school students to the venue for a special performance of the Interlochen Center for the Arts Academy Dance Division’s ballet interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

For 75% of the students, this free Next Gen event was first the time they had ever experienced live ballet.

Students had glowing reviews about everything from the set design, talent, costuming, acting, choreography and the pre-performance introduction by Interlochen’s Director of Dance, Joseph Morissey.

An additional 100 Next Gen tickets were given to dance students and chaperones from studios across the region to join us at the Center for the evening show.

Students said, “Thank you for the wonderful ballet. It was a great moment for me, as it was the first ballet I have ever seen,” and “I was very pleased! The costumes, the acting were all so amazing. I have seen ballets before, but this one was different; I could feel the dancers’ emotions and the conflict was so real.”

The relationship between the GLCFA and Interlochen’s ballet performances is a very special one that we look forward to nurturing and sharing with regional students in the years ahead.

Bill Blagg's Magic Science Lab

Remote Elementary and Middle School Classroom

Illusionist Bill Blagg’s brand-new Magic Science Lab will have kids on the edge of their seats, in the classroom or at home, as they discover how science creates magic right before their very eyes! During this digital “Arts Engagement” viewers joined Bill inside the Magic Science Lab where they explored how magicians use the “secret” five-step process (The Scientific Method) to create their illusions! Together with Bill, they used the “secret” five steps to make a person magically float in mid-air! 


Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks

7th & 8th Grades Attended

Nearly 1,000 middle school students learned important lessons about the nation’s civil rights movement through the musical, Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks, at the Center.


Interlochen Ballet Sleeping Beauty

7th & 8th Grades Attended

I really liked the ballet because it was something that most of my students would never have had the opportunity to experience without your grant and program. I would love to have my students watch a musical also; our school no longer has a theater program.

Area Teacher



Click Clack Moo

Communication, Family & Relationships, Music
K To 2nd Grades Attended 

Over 1,000 kindergarten through second grade students enjoyed the musical Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type at the Center. Education Director Heather Russell visited all 17 attending schools in the week prior to read the Caldecott Award winning book and show students a now obsolete typewriter. 

Schools from Mackinaw City to Bellaire, Charlevoix to Inland Lakes and many in between were able to attend this Next Gen matinee offering free of charge, thanks to the generous family of donors who support the educational programming at the Center. One student gave the experience “10,000 thumbs up!” 

Lesson plans were provided to teachers that tied in with the state standards, and students learned about compromise and relationships in the “mooooving” and hilarious musical. 

McLean & Eakin Booksellers of Petoskey partnered with the Center to offer books for purchase to students, and several of their community patrons donated books which were given to every school.

Robert Jensen Dau Foundation

Mansfield Family Foundation

The Meijer Foundation

Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs/National Endowment for the Arts