30 years of ‘Hugs and Kisses’

Virginia Repertory Theatre honors the 30th anniversary of ‘Hugs and Kisses’, the nationally acclaimed sexual prevention program, with a free performance.

I have two very clear, very distinct memories of watching Hugs and Kisses

In the first, I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor of my elementary school gymnasium, surrounded by my classmates, listening to actors talking and singing about “good touches,” “bad touches,” and “secret touches”. In the second, it’s almost 20 years later, and I’m standing at the back of the cafeteria of the school where I worked, willing my students to pay attention to the important messages being shared on stage.

Chances are, if you attended a public elementary school here in Virginia any time between the early 80s and now, you have some memory of Hugs and Kisses as well.

Since it began touring in 1983, Hugs and Kisses has been shown in every school district in the state and has been seen by approximately 1.5 million children. According to a press release from Virginia Repertory Theatre, anecdotal evidence suggests that as a result of the play and related dialogue, many of those children have sought and received the help they needed to end sexual victimization.

To honor the 30th anniversary of this nationally acclaimed play, Virginia Rep will host a free performance at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, October 16th at the Sara Bell and Neil November Theatre. Channel 8’s Juan Conde will host the event, and a question and answer session and reception will immediately follow the program.

More from the press release:

This award- winning landmark musical play sensitively tells the story of a little girl who has been sexually abused. During the course of the play, the girl and her friends learn valuable life lessons that enable her to talk to a trusted adult who can bring help.


The project began with a 1981 conversation between Bruce Miller, then Artistic Director of Theatre IV, and Ann Childress from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Childress persuaded Miller that an educational program about child sexual abuse was needed for school age children. After 18 months of research, Miller along with playwright Terry Bliss and composer, Richard Giersch, had created the child abuse prevention play. Miller remembers that in the early years, Hugs and Kisses was not an easy sell. “In 1983, no school in Virginia would even accept a free performance so we provided seven showcase performances across the state. During that time period, a major case of child abuse broke at a childcare facility in California and child sexual abuse was featured on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Within days, the show was fully booked and has been ever since.”


Hugs and Kisses has been recognized nationally as an important prevention tool. The United States Department of Health and Human Services awarded Bruce Miller the Commissioner’s Award to honor his “outstanding contribution to the field of child abuse and neglect.” The program itself has received the Governor’s Award for service to the Commonwealth and the Award for Excellence in Prevention from the Virginia Council in Coordinating Prevention. In addition, Hugs and Kisses was performed before the U. S. Senate Sub-Committee on the Sexual Victimization of Children and was the keynote address at the national conference of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse.

For more information about the anniversary performance or Hugs and Kisses in general, contact Ronnie Brown at rbrown@va-rep.org or 783-1688 ext 1130, or read more about it on the Virginia Rep website.

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Hugs and Kisses 30th Anniversary Performance

  • Wednesday, October 16th • 7:00 PM
  • Sara Bell and Neil November Theatre (114 W. Broad Street)
  • Admission is free

Image via Hugs and Kisses

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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