Next Gen Events

Upcoming Events

Collision of Rhythm

August 17, 2022

Their performance is a non-stop, mind-blowing cavalcade of percussion, tap dancing, vocal percussion, instrumentals, piano, marimba, juggling, singing, and audience interaction.

Collision of Rhythm delivers a high-energy, impactful showcase full of innovative musical feats, spontaneous audience interaction, and tons of laughter and excitement! Their performance is a non-stop, mind-blowing cavalcade of percussion, tap dancing, vocal percussion, instrumentals, piano, marimba, juggling, singing, and audience interaction. Collision of Rhythm has been described as Stomp meets Blue Man Group meets Cirque du Soleil.

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Student Workshop Opportunity

Is your child in grades 5-12 and interested in a special opportunity to attend a one-hour workshop with the artists? There are just 25 spots available! This workshop will be offered at 3:30PM in the Community Engagement Room at the Center on Wednesday, August 17, and costs $10 per student. To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 231.439.2610 or e-mail

This event and workshop promise to be rewarding, interactive, community-building events full of fun, positivity, and incredible rhythmic feats.

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Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide

October 24, 2022

Based on the beloved children's book series, this musical is about owning up to your mistakes and how nobody is ever done learning. 

Now that Junie B. Jones has been going to school for over one-anda-half years, who better to write the book on EVERYTHING you need to know? From bus rules and Band-Aids to carpools to cookies, Junie B. and friends deliver the definitive word on surviving and thriving in style. With a jillion tips, tricks, and trip-ups, Junie B. shares her hard-won expertise and shows us all how school is sometimes scary, sometimes super-fun, and ALWAYS something to sing about!

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Human[kind] Cinema Series: The Book Thief

November 18, 2022

Based on the beloved bestselling book by Markus Zusak, “The Book Thief” tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany. Taught to read by her kind-hearted foster father, Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee being sheltered in her foster parents’ basement.

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It's Okay to be Different

January 27, 2023

Three contemporary stories by New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Todd Parr will be 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.

Mermaid’s new show will be directed and adapted by Jim Morrow, veteran director of numerous internationally acclaimed Mermaid productions.  It will feature a diverse cast, an innovative approach to puppetry manipulation and construction, combined with playful original music for which the company has earned worldwide praise.

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Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra Presents: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey

January 27, 2023

A celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Shackleton Endurance Expedition as well as modern heroes of icy waters. Curriculum resources will be provided by the GLCO and the event will include live music, projected images, and theatrical storytelling.  

Interlochen Arts Academy’s Cinderella

February 16, 2023

An annual favorite, this represents the fourth ballet presented at the Center by the Interlochen Arts Academy for roughly 500 area 6th graders. For most, it is their first experience with a live ballet. The engagement includes a free matinee for students and an evening show for families.


The Lightning Thief

April 10, 2023

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.

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Past Next Gen Events

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Pre-School through 2nd Grade Attended

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