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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

black jaguar
For more Wordless Wednesday Participants, visit the Hub.

Children and Performing Art Part II

As I mentioned in another post we were able to see a ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet. Because the boys’ ballet classes share the company’s facility we’ve been trying to discreetly and respectfully follow the company’s rehearsal of the ballet—they have put months into this, and I truly think it has been beneficial to whet the boys’ interest to sit through a three hour story ballet. They’ve seen all the hard work and sweat and patience that the dancers have put into this. They’ve seen the reality that what is seen on stage is just a heartbeat in the life of a dancer—granted it is the accented beat! But it is still just a fleeting moment.

In my opinion it is extremely important to expose them to performances. It is also just as important to expose them to the behind scenes efforts that it takes to create a production. How to do that?

Take lessons. Expensive? Most likely. Will you ever get the money back in a child trying to pursue a professional career? Doubtful. But it is no different than the money spent on sports, and most children will not grow up to be professional athletes. Disciplines learned in artistic pursuits follow someone through a lifetime, just as do athletic pursuits. It is not necessary, but can add to the enjoyment of watching if one has attempted an instrument, acting or dance, or sporting event.

Learn at home if outside lessons are too expensive. We do our piano lessons at home. It has been a wonderful experience. Any introduction will make it easier to pursue at a more traditional manner in the future.

Other ideas: read plays aloud as a family. We always hear about the importance of reading stories aloud to children—it is hugely important!! Reading plays aloud can be a really great tool also. Take it a step further and try putting on a family or homeschool group play; a great way to have hands on learning about sets and costuming. Even easier—stage a puppet show. Take a favorite story, Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows, or a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale and have the children work out the scenes. Learn about script writing.

Unarguably homeschooling can sometimes limit opportunities for participation in productions, both as a viewer or a participant. But public and private schools, under pressure to teach basics and meet government criteria, aren’t able to provide enough opportunities to suit my wishes either. With a little extra effort children learning at home can have even more in-depth experiences with the arts than they would in a more traditional setting. No matter your family’s personal choices for education, you can’t go wrong encouraging artistic pursuits!

Part I here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Children and Performing Art Part I

When children are interested in theatrical pursuits of any sort, musical, ballet or conventional stage, it is extremely important to expose them to performances. How to do that?

Don’t have the extra cash for expensive night performances? See if matinees are cheaper. Matinees, in general, are usually more kid friendly and the patrons more relaxed; although we’ve had mostly positive responses to the boys at night performances. Many symphonies (and other performance groups) have a children’s performance that are somewhat of a glorified dress rehearsal. Many productions offer schools discounted tickets—sometimes with the opportunity for a Q &A session before or after. It never hurts to see if homeschoolers are welcome. Some places even offer productions geared toward homeschoolers.

Don’t have access to the big-city variety of performances? Local community theatre, high school, and civic symphonies offer wonderful and affordable events. Still not something you can swing because of number of children or their ages are of concern? Check out films from the library. We’ve introduced opera to the boys this way. HMS Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, The Barber of Seville, and The Magic Flute are all good choices. We’ve watched productions in German and Italian and the boys have had no problem following the general storyline.

A benefit of checking out films from the library is the story can be paused, explained, restarted, paused for bathroom breaks, re-watched, enacted later, or if you have children like mine they will act along at the same time during a second viewing. And then re-perform for, oh the next few months weeks days.
Really, a huge source of entertainment—especially the Major-General's Song.

Finding Hollywood Nobody--Blog Book Tour

I thoroughly enjoyed Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson. So I was thrilled to receive her latest installment on Scotty Fitzgerald--Finding Hollywood Nobody. Unfortunately it came right before an unplanned extended out-of-town trip.It is on my "to read" pile for this week. I have great expectations. For now, here is the information from the press releases:

Scotty Fitzgerald, oft-neglected daughter of well-known Hollywood food stylist Charley, knows the “inside scoop” about the Hollywood stars we can’t get enough of. Having spent her life in an RV driving from set to set while her mom “styled food” for celebrities, Scotty sees what the fans do not. And she reveals it regularly on her Hollywood Nobody blog, though she’d rather be as far away from Hollywood as anyone can get. After all, Scotty has enough drama in her own life!

After learning that her ‘mother’ is really her grandmother, Charley finds out her real parents were probably killed in a mafia-style shooting reminiscent of The Sopranos. Scotty’s now certain a sinister “Biker Guy” who’s continued to track her and her mom must be connected to her parents’ shooting. There’s a pretty good chance, she decides, that he’s looking to finish the job by taking her life.

So Scotty and Charley do what they’ve always done—run and avoid the situation. But a life on the run is exhausting and Scotty’s had just about enough—enough to ignore Charley’s motherly direction and chart her own course. Let’s just hope it isn’t a course that puts her in the crosshairs of her own parents’ murderer.

Themes of the Book

Finding identity. Teen Pregnancy. Exploring faith for the first time. Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. Encountering new environments. Discovering the courage to act on your convictions.

Lisa SamsonAbout Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy-Award-winning Songbird. Finding Hollywood Nobody is the second book in the Hollywood series. Lisa is the mother of three children. To learn more, visit

Q. Discovering who you are is a major theme in Finding Hollywood Nobody. Scotty feels compelled to learn more about her real parents when she discovers that her ?mother? is really her grandmother and that her parents were likely killed in a mafia-style shootout. What do you think principally defines who we are ? genetics & family or how we see ourselves?
A. Being no expert in such things, I really couldn't say. There are way too many stories of twins separated at birth, growing up in very different homes, who end up living very similar lives. So I'd say genetics plays a large part. But just look and see what happens to people who are raised with many more advantages than those who aren't. So family as well as social standing hold a lot of sway as well. And then . . . how we see ourselves is a large part, especially how we see ourselves in light of God. Do we really believe God loves us? So can I answer yes to all three? I think we tend to get in trouble when we try and reduce the human psyche to one principle issue, anyway. As the Bible says, "we are fearfully and wonderfully made."

Q. What would you recommend to people in a similar situation as Scotty either through adoption or other circumstances? In your opinion - is finding your genetic heritage worth risking everything?
A. I wouldn't recommend anything! I think every situation is different and I would recommend commiting the matter of finding one's biological parent to intense prayer before even thinking of making a move. Let the Spirit guide above all else.

Q. What was your inspiration behind the Hollywood Nobody series?
A. I I just wanted to write a fun series. There are a lot of good series out there with teens in a more typical home situation, with either one parent around or two, living in a town, going to school, dealing with friends. But I wanted to remove my main character from the everyday world teens find themselves in and see what she did. I'm fascinated by what happens in Hollywood so setting it in that world, but on its edges, was something interesting for me. I swear, there are times I read what's happening to some of these young actresses and singers and can hardly believe my ears. I wanted to be able to explore a teenage girl's reaction to some of these foibles.

What can you tell us about what?s in store for Scotty in Book 3?
A. Scotty finds some romance! As does Charley. And, of course, Seth "hottie" Haas, finds himself feeling a little threatened! The search for her mother continues full force. The book takes place in the mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina on the set of a Scottish epic film. Lots of guys in kilts. i'm just sayin'!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

A Homeschool Resource

I’m not sure how many people introduce Shakespeare early to their children. I have my reservations about it—the old Bard offers violence, innuendo and flat out impropriety at every turn, but we were going to see a ballet version of Romeo & Juliet and I did not want to be in a dark theatre with Roo saying, “Now who is that? Why are they fighting? They did WHAT??”

Truth be told half of all the grown-ups there will likely be thinking the same thing. Half of the population in the audience will be asking that same question out loud. But it’s not polite to talk during a ballet performance (although if I understand correctly some of Shakespeare’s crowds believed in audience participation of a sort). Anyhoo…shameless bragging in the next breath, but generally my boys are very well behaved at the ballet. We have season tickets so we always sit in the same spot and there are a couple of older ladies who are VERY annoying who sit two rows behind us. I digress…

Ahemmm…where was I? Oh. We were going to see a ballet version of R&J so I checked out a video from the library so the boys would have an overview of the story. There will be a synopsis of the story in the program, but 20 minutes before curtain is NOT when I want to discuss things.

I was not in the mood to show them my first introduction into R&J from high school—does anyone remember the Olivia Hu$sy version—I really am not fond of that. Also I was afraid if we watched a full version they might not make it to the end. If music and/or dance are involved they can sit for hours, but with the challenging language and the stopping the tape to answer questions, I was afraid I would burn them out on the story before we got to the theatre.

Yes there is a point here.

Sooooo…what I did check out was a video called A Taste of Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, produced by Bullfrog Films. It is 43 minutes long, narrated to fill in the abridged acting scenes, (in my opinion) pretty well acted, set a little unusually so if you like that kind of thing it offers opportunity for a rabbit trail discussion of sets and costuming choices. Not gratuitous violence—minimal blood, there are appropriate cuts which don’t change the story line, It was very acceptable by my standards and it was true to the story, so yes, there is murder, violence, deceit, family feuding, teen marriage and suicide—it’s Shakespeare. If those are themes you don’t care to introduce then Romeo & Juliet would not be satisfactory. Ummm…most Shakespeare would not be satisfactory.

The cool thing is I found an on-line study/teachers’ guide produced by the film company. Now I think the boys really are a bit too young to really go in depth on the story, but I will be hanging on to this for future reference. If you find Shakespeare in your future, you might be interested in this free (always a good word) resource. That was my long-winded point.