Family Fun by Laura Churchill Duke: Live theatre lets kids use their imagination

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Laura Churchill Duke
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Madison Burns, of Cambridge, says the best part about going to see a play is watching the actors and actresses do the play and come out on stage. She also loves meeting the characters afterwards. – Submitted.

With so much stimulation in this day and age, imagination is often left behind. Toys make noise or come with preset ways to build them. Children don’t seem to play make-believe as much any more.

One way to overcome this is by introducing them to live theatre.

Natasha Cairns of Coldbrook has taken her two sons to the theatre since they were two years old.

“I take them,” says Cairns, “so that they can experience the arts and realize that there is more entertainment out there than just the television and video games.”

Angela Burns of Cambridge agrees. She takes her daughter Madison, six, to the theatre so she will fall in love with live theatre instead of TV or movies. 

“Also,” says Burns, “I love live theatre and want us to be able to go on outings together to the theatre as she grows up.”

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.

Sometimes it's hard to know whether a play is appropriate or not for children, or what age they should be to attend. Cairns says she selects plays she knows are geared towards families. Burns suggests checking age requirements for the play in the publicity. 

“I also check the websites for additional information and talk with other parents.”

When in doubt, phone or email the theatre to ask.

Children under five can certainly attend live theatre, depending on the show and the maturity of the children.

“For young children under five,” says Henry, “the show should not be very long as their attention span can wander. If they know the story and there is audience interaction holding their attention, it is much easier.”

Many parents fear taking their children to live theatre because they are not sure how they will behave.

“I never tell parents, especially those with children under six, to make them stay quiet,” says Henry. “Kids need to identify with the story. The actors are aware that this could happen, and are prepared!”

As an experienced actor, Henry loves it when she hears someone react to what she is doing on the stage.

“That means I have done my job!” she says.

Cairns says not to sweat the small stuff.

“There are children crying, laughing, dancing, playing, being loud, burping 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!

“If the play has been printed in a book, read the book and get the younger kids ready for the story and explain things,” suggests Burns. 

If the play has been made into a movie, watch it.  Do some research and explain the story.  This will get the child interested and excited about the story and they will want to go see the play, too.

Most importantly, watch the reaction on your child’s face. It will make it all worthwhile!

 

Laura Churchill Duke (www.valleyfamilyfun.ca), a former member of the Board of CentreStage Theatre, often takes her boys to the dress rehearsals for family shows. She makes sure the actors are well-prepared for kids interacting and being loud during a performance! 

Organizations: Live theatre, Board of CentreStage Theatre

Geographic location: Coldbrook, Cambridge

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