Taking a child to her first big, live performance NOT specifically designed for kids can be nerve-racking. Will she sit still and pay attention? Will she refrain from incessantly kicking the seat in front of her?
The answer is … yes!
With a little preparation on your part, it’s easy to turn a child into a good little theater goer who actually loves to go!
“Part of our jobs as adults is to give kids the tools they need to succeed,” says Roderick Justice, producing artistic director for The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (TCT).
That means making sure kids are prepped to watch a show. Of course simple things like staying seated and not kicking seats are important, but you can also say, “We watch the show with our eyes and our ears, but not our mouths” … unless of course, something very funny happens, in which case it’s OK to laugh!
BEYOND THE BASICS
Preparing your child for a live show is not just about etiquette, Justice says.
It’s natural for kids to have questions about where you are taking them and then once there, about what’s happening on stage. Justice says to take time beforehand to explain to your child what the show’s about and what’s going to happen.
You can say, for instance, “We’re going to see Mary Poppins. We’ve watched that on TV, but now we’re going to see it on the stage!” This preps your child in a wonderful way. You can even play the music before hand to build her enthusiasm.
Also prior to seeing a show, give your child ideas on what to look for, and encourage her to save her questions for intermission or after the show. With a little prep kids can feel ready for things like the theater going dark, special effects, bright lights and loud noises, and even a wicked character or two.
TCT offers a play-by-play guide for productions on its website (thechildrenstheatre.com). The guides can be a big help in preparing kids prior to seeing a show.
Of course, a treat in the theater can be helpful to kids — just make sure wrappers are unwrapped before the show begins!
There are lots of kid-friendly shows to see in our area, so start with one of those before taking your child to, say, the opera.
“The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is the perfect place to take risks!” says Justice. With inexpensive shows only one hour long, produced specifically for young audiences, TCT is a definite go-to for theater newbies. Actors are trained not to be thrown off-guard by audience reactions.
This season’s MainStage lineup includes Peter Pan Jr. (Oct. 21 – 30); Cinderella (Dec. 9 – 18); Dreamworks’ Madagascar: A Musical Adventure (Feb. 10 – 19, 2018); and Mary Poppins (April 7 – 16, 2018).
If your child’s ready for a more intimate setting, check out the Showtime Stage series, in the 150-seat theatre at TCT’s new facility on Red Bank Road. Be sure to visit the website before attending for helpful tips on what to do if she becomes restless during a performance (hint: think about purchasing seats near the back of the theatre for a quick escape to the lobby if needed!).
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra’s Lollipop concerts (cincinnatisymphony.org) are another great opportunity for little ones.
“I promise it will be louder than your kids!” Justice says. This year’s lineup includes The Polar Express: A Musical Storybook (Nov. 25), Mozart’s Neighborhood (Feb. 3, 2018), and Lemony Snicket: The Composer is Dead (April 28, 2018).
Although they’re not live, movies are another good place to practice, says, “If kids can sit through a Disney movie, they can make it through a one-hour performance.”
Story times at local libraries are another great source for practicing with kids. Check library schedules for the ArtReach touring division, along with performances from local groups like Madcap Puppets (madcappuppets.com), Wump Mucket Puppets (wumpmucketpuppets.com) or the Frisch Marionettes (frischmarionettes.com). Or, check out TCT in Story Tree Time at Cincinnati Museum Center (cincymuseum.org).
Check out these venues and organizations for upcoming live performances:
Acting Up Children’s Theatre (actingup.com) is a volunteer theatre organization that offers kids the chance to see their peers on stage with productions that features casts of dozens of young actors.
The Beechmont Players (beechmontplayers.org) is a volunteer community theatre group that offers a range of productions for all ages, including plays like The Secret Garden and the upcoming James and the Giant Peach at the Anderson Center from Aug. 4 – 12.
The Children’s Theatre of Mason (childrenstheatreofmason.com) is another local organization that puts children onstage as well as behind-the-scenes, working on set building, crew members and more.
Cincinnati Ballet’s (cballet.org) annual presentation of Frisch’s Presents The Nutcracker is ideal for young audiences, but don’t count out their other productions, especially their springtime performance, Family Series: Beauty and the Beast, coming in April 2018.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s (cincyplay.com) Off the Hill series is a traveling theater series that takes short, kid-friendly performances to local libraries, community centers, arts centers and more. Get this season’s schedule online.
Fitton Family Fridays at the Fitton Center (fittoncenter.org) include everything from plays by local theater groups to interactive concerts and even national comedy acts. It’s a good time for all with a reception before the show to get kids warmed up.
Inspiring Arts Productions (inspiringartsproductions.com) offers family-friendly performances, including this month’s Crazy For You, a toe-tapping sendup to the work that goes into putting on the biggest show a small-town has ever seen.
The Linton Chamber of Music (lintonmusic.org) offers a fun musical series called Peanut Butter n’ Jam for ages 2 – 6 and their families. Kids get to learn about individual instruments in these interactive concerts held at various venues throughout the city.
UC Clermont’s Calico Children’s Theatre series
(ucclermont.edu/community/arts/calico-theatre.html) offers an affordable intro to theater with productions designed to spark curiosity and impart valuable lessons. Get this season’s lineup online.