The big shows are popular. There are the Disney on ice shows, there is Broadway in Boston, and then there is the Circus of course. Taking little children to see a show can be a big ordeal and a big expense, but there are ways to work around it and make going to the theatre as a family a positive experience for all. I think one of the biggest mistakes parents make is taking children to a show before they are ready. Often parents worry about whether a child can sit still through the show, but more often than not a great show will capture their attention it is other factors that can be more problematic.
Things to consider:
- How does your child do with the dark? If you have a child that might be uncomfortable in a very dark theatre, then take them to a show that may not be in total darkness (at a library perhaps). You can also try to choose seats near the aisle where there is often a little light on the floor or on the seat. Lastly, choose a seat by the door, so that you can take a scared child out in the hall where there is a light without too much disruption.
- How does your child do with noise, loud music, or scary music? Adults have become accustomed to a dark room, enhanced sound, and lights, but for a child it can be overwhelming. Bring headphones for a child who might be sensitive to the sound. Sometimes the cheap seats way in the back of the theatre are the way to go because often the sound is quieter in the back and the physical distance from the stage can be helpful. If the show has music, it can be helpful to play the cd before going to see the show, so that the children are familiar with it.
- Be patient. Going to the theatre is a very special experience. If you rush into it, you risk turning kids off live shows.
- Timing is everything on stage and off. If the performance is during a nap time or late a night, you may end up sitting through the show with a sleeping child on your lap, or worse, a melting down child. See a matinee if an evening show is too late.
When my children were younger, outdoor performances, performances at the library, puppet shows at Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline, and performances at Wheelock Family Theatre were our best bet. The movie theatre was too scary. Going to see performances in large venues was too overwhelming (and often costly). Now that my children are older (9 and 11) we’re okay with the movie theatre. We’ve graduated from the library performances, but some of the shows that seem made for younger children are actually even better now that the kids are older.
I told the children we were going to see a show. My son, who thought he would rather be at home playing Minecraft or watching a cartoon, moaned and groaned and fought me all the way out the door. Secretly, I was worried that maybe The Pirate Princess was a terrible idea. I knew it was probably made for a younger crowd, but it was at the American Repertory Theatre, which is close to our house, it was live theatre, which I wanted my kids to experience more of, and it wasn’t terribly expensive so if it was no good, I would be okay with us sneaking out at intermission. We couldn’t get seats together because we got tickets at the door, but in the end we were able to sit near each other. The activities leading up to the show were a little young, but neither child complained. As soon as the show began, we were all drawn in and I think the adults and older children probably got the most out of the show. By, intermission my son apologized profusely for his earlier resistance to coming and we had one of the most perfect afternoons. My daughter and I have been going to the ballet for a few years together, and now my son and I have our thing. We have started going to the theatre together. He loves music so for now we have gone to musicals primarily, but as he gets older and his interests grow we may begin to explore a little more (maybe some improv, and non-musical theatre will come next.)
Most recently, Henry and I were invited to see the Boston Children’s Theatre’s production of Caps for Sale. This was another time when I was pretty sure that show would be aimed at a younger audience, but we were both up for checking it out. Once again, we both really enjoyed the show, and in fact, I think the production wasn’t aimed at the age group that one would expect for Caps for Sale which tends to be popular among the Kindergarten crowd. Caps For Sale had some gothic Tim Burton-esque scenes that I think were perfect for my son and I but maybe a bit much for the younger audience members. The cast was impressive. Clearly the Boston Children’s Theatre knows what they are doing when it comes to working with young actors, because the individual talents or each cast member really shone. The cast ranged in age from about 7 to 18 with an adult lead. Boston Children’s Theatre‘s season has concluded with Caps for Sale but they offer a summer program for young actors ages 4-14. New England Theatreworks, which is Boston Children’s Theatre’s pre-professional program is for agent 14-19. In addition, for audience members and actors alike, the Boston Children’s Theater hosts a gala annually. This year’s Giving Voice benefit evening and auction honoured Kristin Chenoweth.
Wherever you end up this summer, check out some of the summer theatre productions near you and you’ll be ready for a year ahead of theatre with the family.
Shows on my radar this summer are: We are heading to see Waitress in NYC. After I saw it this fall at the American Repertory Theatre, I bought the cd and the kids know it by heart. I didn’t think they’d want to see the show since it’s a bit old for them but we all cannot wait! Matilda is one of my favourite books and movies and I am looking forward to taking the kids to see that this summer at the Boston Opera House. Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios is at the top of the kids’ list too and a family favourite.