AS A DIRECTOR, actor, and theatre educator, I am submerged daily in theatre; I eat, sleep, and breathe it. Often, I forget that other people’s lives are not as deeply saturated in the arts like mine. This may come as a shock, but for some, attending a stage performance is a completely foreign event. In order to help parents who do not regularly attend the theater with their children, here are some strategies to introduce your family to the world of the performing arts.
1. Take children to a variety of performances. Even in a small community like Cache Valley, there are countless performances available on any given weekend. Look for opportunities to expose your children to a
variety of types of performances. Find out what is happening in community theatre, university theatre and music, and professional touring productions. Quality entertainment need not break the bank either; don’t forget about the five high schools in the Valley and their musicals and concerts. Often, these are the performances that children find most inspiring and entertaining.
2. Know the show! When dealing with kids, you can’t expect that every production is going to be a winner. Content or even storyline may not be appropriate or entertaining to all children (or adults). Research the show you’re interested in before you get tickets.
3. Know your child’s interests and attention span. Before purchasing tickets, determine whether a two or-more hour production is within your child’s interests and attention limits. This could save you from being embarrassed as you are hauling a bored and fussy child out of the theater.
4. Demonstrate your own appreciation for the arts. Be aware of your own behavior while attending a performance. Children will watch the adults around them to learn what behaviors are acceptable. Keep your phone put away during a performance, don’t take pictures or videos, don’t talk, and try your hardest not to fall asleep.
5. Talk to your children after a performance. On the way home, ask your child what they thought of the performance. Find out what aspects of the production they thought were most entertaining. What didn’t they like? Which characters or performers did they enjoy the most and why? Let your child’s answers to these questions guide your future searches for performance options.
6. Watch movie musicals. Movie musicals have been around since talking pictures were born! Check your favorite streaming services and your video collection for possibilities. This is an affordable option that offers many of the same benefits of live performance. In the privacy of your own home, you can even feel free to sing along!
7. Encourage them to participate. If your appreciation of the performing arts rubs off on your child and they begin to express an interest in participating on stage themselves, encourage their interests. There are opportunities in school and community for children to get involved and gain important performing skills. Student performers report that the most important lessons they have learned in theatre apply to many aspects of life outside of the arts. Children who participate in theatre gain confidence and learn the importance of respect, commitment, collaboration, and hard work.
Follow these suggestions and you’ll find that the world of performing arts can benefit your entire family, whether you and your children are watching from the seats or entertaining the audience from the stage.