It isn’t every day that children are meant to scream at the top of their lungs in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall. But the chance to see and interact with dinosaurs is certainly cause for excitement.
On Friday, Feb. 2, Zoellner hosted Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo. The event was sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital as a part of their Family Series which has sponsored several of Zoellner’s family-friendly events in the past.
Dinosaur Zoo is an educational and theatrical experience that features ultra-realistic dinosaur puppets. The show was founded 30 years ago in Australia by former school teacher, Sharon Kerr. The show is part of a larger company called Erth Visual and Physical Inc. The company also has other interactive programs such as a Shark Dive and a Prehistoric Aquarium.
Because the show was created in Australia, it focuses on dinosaurs that roamed prehistoric Australia, such as the Leaellynasaura. However, since Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is on tour in North America, it also includes some dinosaurs that originate from this continent, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex.
The event was sold out, with families coming all across the Lehigh Valley. Children ranging from newborns to 10-year-olds roamed the auditorium in awe of the vivid and life-like puppets.
Many boasted their own dinosaur toys, waving them in the air. Some even dressed up in clothing featuring their favorite dinosaurs.
When asked what brought their family to the event, several parents said the show intrigued their children and they wanted to enjoy a family-friendly experience.
“We came for the children, and it was a great experience,” Christopher Mcatee, a parent at the event, said. “They loved it, and it was definitely informative.”
The audience enjoyed a 50-minute, interactive “no-shush” show. Audiences were encouraged to move and vocalize without being shushed to increase the entertainment and educational value of the show. Children were brought on stage to interact with the puppets as they learned how to approach and soothe the dinosaurs.
Audience members also assisted in the experience by making noises to attract the dinosaurs and stomping their feet in unison to simulate the feeling of the Chicxulub asteroid.
The presenter of the show, Big Anderson, discussed topics like the definition of paleontology, how dinosaurs existed and what their daily habits included. She also discussed their social approaches and how to protect yourself from one. The audience gained knowledge of technical terms about dinosaurs, such as olfactory signals and how to pronounce dinosaur names like the “Meganeura.”
In addition to the main performance, there was a VIP experience that allowed the audience to observe and meet the dinosaurs up close prior to the start of the show.
Zoellner began planning this version of the event several months ago. However, efforts to bring Erth Visual and Physical Inc. to Bethlehem began in 2020 before the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve been looking to bring the Erth Dinosaur group back since March of 2020,” Isabel Barone, the administrative and artistic coordinator of Zoellner, said. “Their performance of Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium had to be canceled when the university moved to remote learning. When we learned they were touring again, we were excited to bring them back as part of our 2023-2024 season, this time as Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live.”
The show was an opportunity to bring the audience back to the past and learn things they may have learned previously or have never known. Children left having either discovered a new passion or furthered a pre-existing interest.
“(My son) did not know much before, but now he is completely intrigued,” Qianqian Yu, a parent, said while leaving the show.