The closest I ever got to being theatrical was studying GCSE & A Level drama, but I have always enjoyed going to the theatre for various shows. A trip to the West End or the local theatre is always good for a date night out and can provide great entertainment for all the family.
Recently, I was given a backstage pass to my local theatre to watch the dress rehearsal of Mr Poppers Penguins and interview the cast to get their take on why they believe children should visit the theatre.
After spending just a few minutes with the director (from Pins & Needles Productions), the cast, composer and stage manager, it was clear that the benefits of bringing your children to the theatre are almost endless. But, for the sake of time, (I know you’re in-between naps, or about to do the school run etc…), I’ve created a list of just 8 reasons you MUST take your children to the theatre.
It’s no secret that the theatre has the ability to inspire creativity. But what really brings this home is the fact that when performers & backstage staff put on a production, inspiring a generation of children to be creative is at the forefront of their mind. The theatre demands a child to engage with their imagination in a greater a deeper way that TV possibly can. As an ex- teacher, I can tell you that ‘imagination’ is in decline. Therefore, anything that encourages children to engage with their imagination, should be highly encouraged and valued.
1 member of the cast was far from shy in hiding the fact that they believe that performing to children is much more fun than performing to adults. The relationship between actor and audience is very different when the audience is made up of children and it gives the performers the chance to relate, interact and laugh with the audience in a new way. This in turn has a huge impact on the audience, creating even more fun for them. When you see someone enjoying what they’re doing, it makes you enjoy it so much more. The theatre provides a children with a couple of hours of entertainment, excitement and pleasure.
“Children absorb much more of what you’re doing…provoking them to ‘feel.’”
Plays, stories and performances are designed to spark emotion within the reader, listener or watcher. Going to the theatre is a fantastic way for children to learn about emotions, their emotions and how to process them.
Stage productions, with the possible acceptation of low budget pantomimes, are rich with the english language. Not only will the children absorb this language to varying degrees, they’ll also be susceptible to experiencing and observing high levels of good communication skills. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when learning is concerned.
I also want to quickly mention that, despite productions usually having a targeted age range, there is always the possibility for children of all ages to benefit. I’m confident that although Ted wouldn’t follow the plot, only being 2, he’d still be engaged & learn by the music, lights, and visual stimulating aspects of the play.
There’s something for you
I asked the cast how they balance the fact that they’re performing to 2 age groups; the parents and the children. There are elements, subtle looks to cast members & the audience and jokes that are there specifically to keep you entertained. Afterall, it’s you, the parents, who buy the tickets and recommend to your friends, so they have to pitch it to your level too.
From speaking to the director and cast, it’s even more apparent that Mr Popper’s Penguins is a story of love & friendship. Within the production the themes and values, being truthful, being a good friend, supporting one another etc etc, are prominent. When you go to a performance designed specifically for children, you can be sure that the values will be positive and strong.
Speaking of being specifically written for children; I liken this to reading books. Books aimed at adults have small print, long chapters, difficult words and about a gazillion pages. (Generally speaking that is). Whereas a book aimed at children has larger print, shorter chapters, easier language etc etc. The point is it’s designed for its purpose. Theatre is the same. This means that you can be guaranteed that your children will benefit and be able to engage with it.
I really loved that the lead actor, Russell (who plays Mr Popper), brought this up. He told me that performing to children is very different to typical children’s entertaining, Saturday morning TV style. Rather, they treat the children with great respect and within the performance they challenge and respond to the audience accordingly. He likened it to encouraging the children to infer information; a tricky skill for children to learn.
They don’t just spoon feed the children but on the contrary ask them to imagine, pretend and explore with their minds. I really liked this point and definitely think that it’s because of this, that the other 7 points occur during performances.
There is no doubt in my mind that taking your children to the theatre is hugely beneficial on so many levels and the beauty of it is that it’s becoming more and more accessible. Those myths about the theatre costing an arm and a leg are ancient history. West End shows often have discounted tickets available and many theatres have schemes available. My local theatre, for example has a, Go! Card, scheme. This is a ‘Pay What You Can’ concept that enables card holders to book last minute tickets on the day of the performance (for elected shows) that cost whatever you can afford! Fantastic schemes like this are making the theatre so accessible to anyone.
You can tell I’m a big fan and a big advocate of taking your children to the theatre to see a show, so if you can, and have the opportunity, I’d highly recommend it.