Guest Post: Kids in the Audience

Here’s a guest post from Danielle, a mom of 2 in Schenectady. She writes on as the Albany Acting Examiner.  Thanks, Danielle!

Recently on Facebook, I read a comment on a friend’s thread asking if his current show, Spotlight Players’ The Producers, is okay to bring kids to. After discussing tap dancing Nazis, the seduction of little old ladies and gay stereotypes, the mom decided that her 12 year old could handle it.
I was glad to hear a parent ask that question. As a mother of two kids under the age of 7, I ask the question “Can my kids handle it?” almost every time we go out. But live theater can be tricky with kids.

Start small and free or inexpensive. The capital region boasts a wide array of opportunities to introduce kids to live performances. Community theater, outdoor performances, library special events, middle school, high school and church productions tend to be more kid friendly venues. lists everything produced by theaters- and has a page devoted to free or pay what you will listings in our area. Local papers cover almost everything else.

My biggest reason for free or inexpensive shows is that you have to be willing to leave. Potty emergencies, meltdowns, boredom, and fidgeting all happen at some time or other. My son started feeling feverish when we saw a show at Sand Lake middle school, and we had to leave shortly after intermission because he threw up. If you have kids, you probably have a story like that. And it’s a lot harder to walk out of a show in which you’ve invested fifty or a hundred dollars.

See shows they would like. Action, bright colors and music are always a hit. My daughter, at age two, sat through the entire Nutcracker at Proctors this December. I had planned an exit strategy, anticipating her behavior would be the same as it is in the movies or church where she gets up, walks around, and talks to everyone. But she stayed still with her little eyes glued to the stage, mesmerized by the movement and costumes.  Shows that kids might like, including Park Playhouse’s High School Musical and Seussical Jr. are great choices. It’s outdoor, and lawn seats are free.

Know your kids, and ask questions. The box office of almost any theater will happily let you know whether a show has adult language or situations. You can check their websites or just look up the show itself on the internet. Wikipedia has plot summaries of most shows, or you can find another company that produced the same show in Idaho or South Carolina if you just type the title into a search engine.

Don’t be afraid of the classics. They are a lot more accesible on stage than they are when reading in English class. I’m sure most parents have never seen a Greek tragedy or Shakespeare play live. When the kids are ready, you’d be surprised how much they grasp from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which can be seen for free in various venues around the capital region this month, produced by Hubbard Hall.

My developmental psychology teacher always stressed modeling behavior to the very young. If a child grows up seeing you respecting the theater, making it a big deal, dressing appropriately, sitting quietly and clapping when the time is right, they will learn to do the same. My kids made me so proud when we went to see Titanic this summer. They were mostly quiet, paid attention (especially my six year old) and had such joy on their faces whenever there was an opportunity to clap. They looked to the adults around them for cues on how to behave.

Remember, if it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up. There is value in live theater that can not be gained through film or television. Don’t let your kids miss out on the experience.

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