Introducing Kids to Live Theatre
By Laura Churchill Duke
It’s true. Someone actually answered a cell phone and proceeded to have a conversation in the middle of a play at CentreStage Theatre! I know this for a fact because my sister was acting on stage. We were all gobsmacked. We need to set a good example for kids at the theatre – and even for other adults!
Some parents worry about taking their kids to live theatre, nervous about how they might behave. When asked what children get out of going to live theatre, CentreStage veteran Nancy Henry says it stimulates their imagination. “Actors pick up a stick to be a pirate, help others, go to a tea party – they can do and be anything,” says Henry. Besides, in a play, the idea of right and wrong can be taught and can hold a child’s attention in a fun way, but there are some simple tips to help make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
- Do your research. This might involve calling the theatre or talking to other parents who have attended the same performance. How long is the show? What is the storyline? Is it a quiet affair or are kids encouraged to interact? Can you bring in snacks?
- Introduce your child to the story before you go: If the performance is a well-known story, read the book to your child before you attend. That way, they know what is coming next and can anticipate the story.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are children crying, laughing, dancing, playing, being loud and doing inappropriate things. But it’s fun and the actors don’t mind. When you choose a show geared towards families, they expect these things, so have fun with it!
- Know your children. My boys would never sit through a three-hour Stage Prophets production, as they don’t have the attention span, but my nieces are captivated by every moment! My boys love live music, while some kids need more action. Know your child’s interests.
- Be willing to leave. If it’s not working, and you’ve given it a valiant try, then leave at intermission! Some things are not worth the stress! Baby steps.
- Model good behaviour. Turn off your phone. Pay attention. Engage. Clap. Sit quietly when necessary. Your kids are watching you as much as they are watching the performance.
Our favourite productions have always been the children’s shows at CentreStage Theatre. They have a no-shush policy. Meaning, kids aren’t told to be quiet! They can often sit on the floor at the front and fully engage in the show. They can yell out to actors, and laugh and dance, and it’s all okay and encouraged! Most importantly, watch the reaction on your child’s face. It will make it all worthwhile!