How We Started
In the 1960s, Sandra Robbins, a dancer and early-childhood educator, had a dream. She imagined a new kind of musical puppet theatre, an environment that opened the space where children could be creative without limitations, where they learned about peace and tolerance of all cultures through the magic of storytelling and art.
Over time this dream became a reality. It began with a group of mothers who joined Sandra to push for the re-opening of a park on Riverside Drive. Sandy then spearheaded the formation of an interactive early-childhood program involving musical storytelling. This program soon gained a following as people recognized the magic that was within the stories, stories that were able to capture the attention of children and adults alike.
Named 'The Bloomingdale Family Program' (which still exists today), the activities moved indoors at The Children’s Aid Society. The following summer the program acquired a bus, which then traveled around New York City’s parks, bringing the arts to new audiences. The bus program involved Sandy, an illuminated screen and puppets.
These shadow puppet storytelling shows were a huge success with the children and the parents. In a way to acquire funds for the continuation of 'The Bloomingdale Family Program', Sandy created a show that included shadow puppets, children and musicians. By the end of the third performance people wanted more. Audiences told her, “Sandy, start a children’s theatre!” Sandra Robbins listened.
How We Grew
In 1967, The Shadow Box Theatre became incorporated. At its very root was the mission to open doorways of communication between New York’s multicultural, inner-city children and their families through the transformative power of theatre. Besides creating a safe, creative, and positive environment- SBT also wanted to provide children with a positive view of themselves, their worlds and their future.
Today SBT’s range of programs and activities include: original full-length musicals performed at a resident theatre and other venues citywide; creative arts workshops in New York City Schools (NYC Dept. Of Education Vendors) and cultural centers; intimate storybook theatre shows performed in classrooms. And through SBT’s publishing division, See-More’s Workshop, The Shadow Box Theatre has created illustrated storybooks, CDs and DVDs with music and songs from past productions, and teachers' guides and educational materials.
Through all its programs, over its half-century of history, The Shadow Box Theatre has reached over 2 million children, teachers and caregivers- and continues to add over 35,000 happy children, teachers and parents every year. Broadening horizons and reaffirming the values of diversity, tolerance and self-worth.
Recognition & Awards
The Shadow Box Theatre's artistic excellence has been praised by The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Daily News, The Amsterdam News, New York Parent Magazine and El Diario, among many publications.
We’ve also been featured on The CBS Evening News, NY1, and local television programs. And we’ve made appearances on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Vegetable Soup,” “Romper Room,” and the PBS special anniversary production, “Kids 13.”
Our shows have appeared at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Symphony Space, Emelin Theatre, Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, and other cultural institutions.
And our art, and our mission, have brought honors from Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the Public Health Association of New York, Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, and the Metropolitan Hospital Center as well as winning the First Manufacturers Hanover Community Service Award.
Our work has also garnered excellent reviews from the American Library Association’s Booklist and The School Library Journal.
We also received an ALA “Children’s Notable Recording” for “How the Turtle Got its Shell,” and created an educational video for the New York City Department of Transportation. And founder Sandra Robbins has received a Woman of Distinction award from the YWCA of Brooklyn as well as a Proclamation Award from the President of the borough of Manhattan (Gale A. Brewer) who declared February 8th, 2015 'Sandra Robbins Appreciation Day.'
We’re proud of our long history of honors. And yet what we’ve done doesn’t compare to what we’re still ready to do.