Huge step for Lil’ Iguana

Educational program used to instill life lessons in kids receiving theater-worthy makeover

Staff photos by Adam Urquhart On Tuesday, Lil’ Iguana picks Manya Patel, a student at Broad Street Elementary School, to participate in a song and dance that emphasizes the importance of taking a buddy along when going somewhere.

NASHUA — After 24 years of service to the children of New Hampshire, those in charge of the Lil’ Iguana program will turn the endeavor over to a professional theater troupe.

Officials with the Firehouse Center for the Arts, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, signed a partnership agreement to create a professional theater-style Lil’ Iguana live musical. Performances in theaters and elementary schools in the region will begin this fall.

This week, those with the nonprofit organization are performing the last of their elementary school shows in New Hampshire. Tuesday morning, Lil’ Iguana arrived at Broad Street Elementary School to teach approximately 200 children valuable life lessons. Some of the safety tips taught were for children to: take a buddy with them; look both ways before crossing a street; and to not talk to strangers.

“The show was great,” Lil’ Iguana Executive Director Jim Tomaszewski said at the conclusion of the Tuesday performance.

He said the new shows with The Firehouse Center for the Arts will start with the same lessons, but with more flow. With the current shows, there is typically a pause between each lesson’s song and dance. With a musical twist to things, the show will consistently flow from one safety tip to the next. The show is set up so that other theaters across the country can take on a license and perform it in their community.

“This is huge because at this age group these lessons are not taught to children at all,” Tomaszewski said.

The organization targets children ages 2-8 with the goal of instilling respect, manners and self-esteem.

With Firehouse performing the shows for the organization moving forward, they will start in the New England area, initially focusing on New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

David Kaye, professor of theater at the University of New Hampshire, will help build the new Lil Iguana show. Tomaszewski said they’re looking to take the program nationwide, perhaps even international.

“We’re going to focus on an entire generation, doesn’t matter their nationality, and focus right across the board with this idea,” Tomaszewski said.

However, that’s not the only thing planned for Lil’ Iguana’s future. An animated series is also on tap for October. Jeffrey Scott, an award-winning writer from Los Angeles whose work can be found in Dragon Tales, Muppet Babies, Spiderman and other shows, has been hired to write the new Lil’ Iguana series pilot. Currently, they’re in the drawing stages of that project. Tomaszewski said the drawings for that series are coming along well.

“After 24 years, I’m hoping and praying that on the 25th anniversary of the program, it will be nationwide,” Tomaszewski said.

Lil’ Iguana will celebrate 25 years of service in August 2019.

The final two New Hampshire elementary school shows planned for this week are set for 10:30 a.m. today at Salisbury Elementary School in Salisbury, and 9 a.m. Thursday at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in Nashua. Tomaszewski said there is also a community show planned for the Hampton Beach Children’s Festival in August.

More information on Lil’ Iguana can be found online at, www.liliguanausa.org.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.