There aren’t any words spoken in “Babble Lab” but there are plenty of sounds. Commissioned by the Children’s Theatre Company, the theater’s own Autumn Ness premiered her unique take on letters and sounds at the intimate Cargill Stage on March 9.

Rushing to find an assigned seat isn’t part of the “Babble Lab” experience. Rather, audience members are asked to wait patiently in the lobby area, where puppet socks are available for play or for one’s feet. Before the audience is let into the auditorium, the “Babble Lab” scientist, played by Ness, appears and starts collecting sounds – including those from the audience.

Mira McDuffie has her tummy sounds listened to and collected by the “Babble Lab” scientist, Autumn Ness, outside of the Cargill Stage on March 9. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

The audience follows the scientist into the Cargill Stage auditorium where children are encouraged to sit in the first few rows of low, cushioned seats and adults are encouraged to sit towards the back.

The scientist then gets to work.

Over the next 45 minutes, the scientist takes the audience on an adventure that starts in her laboratory and ends exploring the sounds of nature. When the scientist collects more and more sounds in her laboratory, letters eventually appear behind her. But instead of turning those letters into words, Ness keeps the letters as sounds, even when combining the letters together.

The “Babble Lab” scientist, played by Autumn Ness, holds up the letter W before she eats it. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

When your target audience is preschoolers, the focus on sounds makes sense.

“This play is about discovering the power of your own voice, and learning to be fearless in using it,” Autumn Ness said in a press statement. “I want every preschooler that sees our show to find their own magical, musical, courageous, epic voice.”

The audience certainly finds their voice during the performance. One of the benefits of seeing “Babble Lab” as an adult is bearing witness to the children’s reactions.

“Oh no! She ate another letter,” a child narrated.

“Don’t touch it! It’s poisonous,” another child warned the scientist as she picked up a fluttering butterfly-like creature. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t poisonous.

The play, directed by Sarah Agnew, takes advantage of the full space of the theater, with sounds traveling around the room and letters appearing beyond the stage. Agnew and Ness’ choice to keep sounds to a “babble” allows the youngest audience members to stay engaged and challenges older children to join them in an imaginary world where words aren’t used to explain anything. When an older child asked the scientist her name, she only answered back in babble.

“Babble Lab” runs Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 14 at the Cargill Stage, 2400 3rd Ave. S. Tickets are $17/$26. The Children’s Theatre Company is also performing  “Alice and Wonderland” through March 31 at the UnitedHealth Group Stage.