Boyz and Girlz in the 'Hood

If a cat and a bird can get along, can't we all? People who once watched X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat live peacefully in their thick-trunked tree on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood probably didn't realize that the puppets were teaching tolerance.

The fact is, most adults age 40 and younger absorbed what can be considered "life lessons" while watching the PBS-TV show. Host Fred Rogers' "secret" was that he entertained kids (and continues to do so) while teaching them. The idea behind "Welcome to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," an exhibit at the Young at Art Children's Museum in Davie, is similar. A re-creation of the show's set features props, such as the tree, that have been outfitted with interactive learning tools, including puppets kids can use to create skits of their own.

Grownups weaned on Mister Rogers' will enjoy wandering through the set as well. The exhibit entrance is a shingled front-porch façade, like the one on the show, complete with a bright yellow swing. Just inside the front door, of course, is a facsimile of the closet where Mr. Rogers opens each episode by swapping his workday loafers and jacket for sneakers and sweater. At Young at Art, child- and adult-size togs are available for visitors.

In the living room, the gaudy plaid couch and the fish tank (Mr. Rogers loves to feed those fish) are among the most recognizable set pieces. But the set would not be complete without that padded blue window seat, behind which runs the trolley that travels from the living room to the Neighborhood of -- you got it -- Make-Believe.

Without the benefit of TV magic, a little extra make-believe is needed to make the leap from living room to imaginary world, which is set up in another room. There, in addition to seeing X and Henrietta's tree, folks can step right up to the blue-gray turrets of the castle where King Friday XIII and Queen Sara Saturday hold court. Parents will no doubt be tempted to slip their hands into the puppets -- maybe even imitate the deep, lispy voice of King Friday himself.

Another prominent stop -- one that parents in particular will appreciate -- is Daniel's Clock. The abode of Daniel Striped Tiger, the clock has no hands because time doesn't matter in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. But don't get too comfortable sitting on the cushions in Daniel's Hideaway, the tentlike enclosure behind the clock. In the real world, time counts.

-- John Ferri

"Welcome to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is on view through February at the Young at Art Children's Museum, 11584 W. State Rd. 84, Davie. Admission is $4. Call 954-424-0085.

 
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