Exxopolis lights up PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

The Bowser-like entrance of Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival

Last night, Scott and I stepped off the streets of Cleveland into an alien world. I can’t do it justice, but what looked a little like Bowser’s Super Mario World Castle from the outside, on the inside was like walking through a series of gigantic balloons.

If you were down in PlayhouseSquare yesterday, you may have seen them setting it up in the parking lot across the street and wondered what it is.

Crew member from Architects of Air outside Exxopolis

A crew member from Architects of Air, which designed and tours Exxopolis around the world

It’s Exxopolis, a special interactive exhibit designed by Great Britain’s Architects of Air. And it’s open today through Saturday (May 9, 10 and 11) as part of PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival.

Since 1992, the Architects of Air have been constructing luminaria like Exxopolis in 28 countries across the world.  Over 2 million visitors have been immersed in these mazes of light and color that the Architects create from pieces of thin plastic cut-and-glued together by hand. While only 4 colors of plastic are used, it’s the light from the sun that creates the wide prism of colors experienced at Exxopolis.

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

Exxopolis’ colors change slightly throughout the day depending on how much sun is shining.

When Scott and I first entered, it took a few moments for our eyes to adjust to our vibrant surroundings.

If you’ve ever imagined what Oz’s Emerald City might look like, double it. It was beautiful.

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

You’re soaked in green as soon as you enter Exxopolis

Because the plastic material runs all around, above, and beneath you, you do need to take off your shoes when you walk through (tip: bring socks or stockings). However, I found it helps immerse you in the moment – the plastic is so soft. It’s like walking on a cloud.

There are tunnels, caverns and domes throughout — all different colors, each eliciting a different emotion from me. We walked the maze, taking a few moments to marvel at the architecture and the artistry, and to just lie back in one of the pods and relax a bit.

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

Kicking back and relaxing at Exxopolis

In all honesty, I didn’t want to leave. Fortunately, it’s only $5 to enter and is open throughout the next couple of days.

(Side note: Even though it’s here as part of the Children’s Festival, Exxopolis is designed for people of all ages. If you work or can get downtown this week/weekend, I encourage everyone to check it out.)

Exxopolis at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

You’ll marvel not just at the colors, but also the beautiful architecture inside Exxopolis.

I’m glad I was able to get a look at Exxopolis last night because I can’t make it to the other days of PlayhouseSquare’s International Children’s Festival this year.

I’ve had the joy of volunteering at prior years’ festivals through Partners and love seeing families from around the region come downtown and experience such unique and enriching live theatre – many for the first time.

Grug at PlayhouseSquare's International Children's Festival

The International Children’s Festival takes over PlayhouseSquare the next few days. Here’s a window painting of Grug, one of the shows featured at the Festival.

Although the Festival kicks into high gear on Saturday, there are a few things you can check out today and Friday. In addition to Exxopolis, there’s a local Art Walk, and performances of three of the Festival’s shows: Grug (from Australia’s Windmill Theatre); The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly (Ireland’s Theatre Lovett); and ZooZoo (Imago Theatre).

ZooZoo sounds particularly incredible. From PlayhouseSquare’s website, think “Cirque Du Soleil-evoking acrobatics mixed with Mummenschanz-like mime, set in a unique, yet accessible, French-influenced, avant-garde playground. ZooZoo is penguins playing musical chairs, a cat trapped in a giant paper bag, hippos with insomnia, anteaters as waiters, and a madcap revue of illusion, comedy and fun that has inspired audiences nationwide.”

On Saturday, you can catch more performances of those shows PLUS The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer; free activities and workshops for children; and short children’s films from around the globe playing in the Idea Center 11am-4:30pm.

Had to get one last photo in our favortie room of Exxopolis

Had to get one last photo in our favortie room of Exxopolis

Tickets for the four shows are $15 each and admission into Exxopolis is only $5 – the Festival’s other activities are free.

Find the full schedule along with links to buy tickets at playhousesquare.org/childrensfestival/schedule.html.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend with a guest the media preview of Exxopolis in exchange for sharing my experience. I am also a member of PlayhouseSquare’s young professionals board. However, my opinions and the events I choose to blog about are my own.

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