This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every moring: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion saith my soul: therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3: 21-26

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: How to Take Young Children to Live Performances

I’ve had a Performing Arts themed week. So I thought I would continue the trend one more day.

People have asked me how and why I manage to take my children to performing arts events.

Why? Because I feel it is immensely important. We as a family are kind of “artsy” I guess, although we enjoy football, basketball, golf and sporting events too. We enjoy reading, but manage to still find time for the video games also.

How? Here are thirteen guidelines for introducing children to live performances; taken from actual guidelines posted on company and theatre websites, some personal opinions—both mine and others.

I’ve got some acquaintances and friends previously and currently in the performing arts, from marketing positions, to performers, to stage managers, from wardrobe assistants to set people, to executive positions. We’ve been fortunate to have access to some wonderful opportunities for viewing and for the children to participate in performances.

Most often we’ve been welcomed by other patrons and audience members, almost always by performers and artistic staff, but there have been a few questioning looks at parents who would bring two young boys to opening night of a three hour performance. We’ve had questioning looks, but never complaints. During intermission and post-performance our children have received many compliments and much attention.

How do you take children to live performances? Truly it is no more difficult to take them to a production than it is to take them to a movie theater.

1. Remember everyone (including your family) has paid to have the privilege of an enjoyable show. Be respectful of other patrons. Expect and insist that others are respectful of your rights as an audience member, but there are guidelines and this is not the time to teach new manners—reinforce learned ones, definitely, but courtesy should be commonplace.

2. Educate yourself about the program you are seeing ahead of time. Look at content—follow your family’s convictions; don’t go to something that you know will offend you. Life is too short to seek out offense.

Know the performance length—30 minutes, an hour, two, three? Can your children sit that long? Can you? Think of the time of day—morning, matinee, evening, nighttime—go when everyone will be alert and able to sit. Consider the facility—will it be outside, inside, intimate, huge stadium show? Will your children be overwhelmed by crowds or can they be free to be a little less inhibited?

3. Be prepared to leave immediately if there is a “crisis.” Crises include: illness, bad temper, loudness, potty emergencies and inappropriateness of content.

Read guidelines for the company or theatre you will be attending. Some will just not allow young children. No way, no how, ain’t gonna happen, no matter how much you pay. Don’t try to get a special exception because even if you know your Junior is “not like those other children.” it isn’t worth it. Your children deserve the courtesy of being able to see a performance you think would be enjoyable for them, but don’t subject them to a situation where they will be totally unwelcome.

4. Be prepared—potty beforehand, don’t go hungry (snacks & even water are most often not allowed in the theatre proper.) Know where the bathrooms are. Know your children’s tolerance levels. Some two year-olds can sit through a symphony and some twelve year-olds cannot. There is nothing wrong with either child.

Don’t go if your child has a last minute illness. No matter how much tickets cost, throwing up is no fun for anyone. While “totally natural” it is embarrassing and may color a child’s view of future performances. Besides, you can’t enjoy when you feel awful.

5. If you must exit the theatre do so quietly and be prepared that you will not be allowed to re-seated until the next intermission. If you have exited due to a temper tantrum (or emesis) it may be within the theatre employees’ rights to ask that you not return. Depending on the situation they may be right.

6. Help your children enjoy the show. Prepare your children for what you will be seeing—preview a movie, read a story, explain to them about the point of the program. Help them know if it is appropriate to laugh out loud, when to clap, what a standing ovation is, what a good performance looks like. Courtesy to the performers is as important as courtesy to other audience members and truly helps a child enjoy a show.

Give them explicit directions on expected behavior. I find my boys will live up to my expectations if I let them in on what those expectations are. Most children want to be appropriate.

7. Start with appropriate themes, adapted fairy tales and stories children are often familiar with are good choices to start with.

Look for performances advertised to be child friendly or an audience mostly comprised of children—although I will tell you, I most often avoid the latter due to the behavior of the young audiences. We went to a performance of a visiting company put on specifically for local school children last fall. I was appalled at the behavior of the majority of children and the chaperones. To be fair, I think the content, while very dramatic and compelling, was too adult for the ages present; high schoolers would have been more appropriate than elementary age.

During Nutcracker our school offers local schools daytime performances and my sons have commented that the young audience response is not the same as regular performances, i.e. laughing at unusual times, and not at the “comedic moments,” lots of whispering, shuffling of seats, etc. But these are learning opportunities for both audience and cast members so there are certainly benefits.

8. Don’t presume you cannot go because you think something will be “fancy.”

Dress appropriately, but be comfortable. I think little girls (for a large part) enjoy frilly dresses. I see them and they are lovely. I think dressing up stresses the importance of the event. But if Johnny loathes, loathes, loathes that clip on tie, for goodness sakes don’t make him wear it—even if it makes him cuter than a bug’s ear (and we know moms love to show off their cute kids—I DO!!). Save the argument for the sitting at the photographers. LOL.

It is hard to concentrate in shoes that pinch, ties that choke, shirts & jackets that are weird, itchy slips, pantyhose that roll—oops sorry that was me with the pantyhose, anyway…life’s to short to be really uncomfortable. Jeans may be acceptable attire. Find out!

9. Start small—one act plays, an evening of ballet with several small ballets or just excerpts, I’ve seen grown-ups only stay for Act I or arrive at intermission for Act II. As long as no one is disturbed by your entrance this is an alternative.
10. Look for free shows or demonstrations. Many companies offer productions in the park far free. Shakespeare is fun in the open air. Having an actor fall off the “stage” dead at your feet is certainly a memorable event. (Again know what might be a possibility before you go.)

11. Civic groups, community theaters, college performances, high school, even elementary schools offer a great variety of disciplines, themes and opportunities. One of our most memorable performances was that of a young man we were acquainted with, a piano major at a local university. We were privileged to attend his Masters Performance—one he had to do for his master’s degree—in affect his graduation ceremony. It was breathtaking. And it was FREE! It truly gave the boys an ideal to aspire to in their music pursuits in general, and their piano playing specifically. This leads me to # 12…

12. Go to see people you know. Good grief, it is a joy to watch friends and family perform!! We go unthinkingly to all the football, soccer, and t-ball games. It is just expected. (And it should be expected that we encourage our family’s sports pursuits.) But our society has fallen away from the arts, overall. At one time it was common for family members to play or sing at gatherings, in parlors or just for a quiet evening’s entertainment. I don’t think that happens often enough.

If cousin Jane has worked all year taking lessons (piano, voice, ballet, acting) and she is brave enough to get up and share her talent with everyone—go see! Clap loudly! Bring her flowers. Be proud.

Even if the performances are less than stellar, be supportive and encouraging. Everyone starts somewhere. It takes a lot of courage to get up on stage. It often takes a lot of preparation. Besides Cousin Jane may some day win an Academy Award and she will remember you came to see her humble beginnings and she might just take you with her to the Awards show…it could happen.

13. Start at home. Just like cultivating a love of reading, a love for performing arts seldom occurs with parents who watch strictly “Cops” or “Survivor.” Children copy what they see their parents do. I’m just saying…Watch videos and films from the library. Read plays out loud as a family. Have a home collection of family friendly musicals and make them a part of daily life, not just something to be endured because it is “art.”

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. What do you do? Write Thirteen things about yourself, summarize your week in one entry, make it easy for other bloggers to get to know you on a weekly basis. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged!

Other posts on this themed week are found:

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Children and Performing Art Part I

Children and Performing Art Part II


pussreboots said...

We haven't tried taking the children to any performances yet but I'm hoping to soon. They both like musicals and my son likes ballet and ball room dancing.

Happy TT.

Lori said...

Great advice. I remember those days:) Happy TT and thanks for stopping by.

On a limb with Claudia said...

We went to a lot of live performances as a kid. I don't really know how our parents dealt with us - but I am deliciously grateful they brought us to so many plays, ballets, opera, symphony, and on and on...

Happy TT!

Picturing of Life said...

You have great post!

Will you visit mine Thanks

Nicholas said...

Very good advice. It's always good to teach children that not all entertainment comes out of a screen.

Robin said...

I grew up just outside of NYC, so performances were a big part of my childhood. The symphony used to have a wonderful series for children (and perhaps still does, I don't live there anymore) and a Broadway musical followed by a trip to Rumplemayer's was bliss indeed.

gemma said...

I am still reading through these guidelines and they are great. I stopped short on Number 2 and I have been pondering that first suggestion regarding content. That is such good advice - life IS too short to seek out offense but there are so many who do. I am going to say this over and over and to every and all I encounter today. I wonder how many of those may take offense? (just kidding)

Again - these are great guidelines and I am going to move them along to some young mothers that I know.

Denise Patrick said...

Great advice. I wish I had taken my children more when they were small. But they enjoyed what we did go to.

Happy TT!

The Gal Herself said...

What a great idea for a TT! I'm not a mom, but I am a theater goer and I appreciate you spreading the word. (Thanks for visiting my TT.)

misty said...

Very helpful TT. Great list. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great weekend.

our happy happenings said...

My daughter is only 18 months, so we haven't tried anything like this yet. Great advice.