I’m a HUGE fan of live theater. I can’t wait until the day that I can take Ellie and Rhi to their first (or tenth) Broadway show. But I know that before they’re ready for the Great White Way (as Broadway is nicknamed), I need to lay a lot of groundwork, both in terms of teaching proper audience behavior, taking them to shows, and introducing Broadway music.
Today I’m going to talk about how we’ve laid the groundwork in terms of teaching audience behavior and taking them to shows. We’re really lucky that Singapore has an amazing kids theater scene. There’s the branch of the Singapore Repertory Theater (The Little Company) that does children’s productions, there’s touring productions, and even a children’s theater festival every year.
Ellie’s first experience with live theater was “Sesame Street Live” just before she turned two. You may roll your eyes and say “that’s not theater”-but it is. A story unfolds onstage and it’s a long production to sit still through. Ellie was enraptured, sitting still with her mouth open in awe for most of it.
Not every theater experience since has been that positive. Some shows have enraptured her (“Fantastic Mr Fox”), others less so (“The Gruffalo”). We’ve had to spend a few whispering in her ear that whatever behavior she was engaging in that we deemed inappropriate (playing with the seat booster is a big one, but also necessary given how small she is).
Before each show starts, we ask her several questions
1-What does a good audience member look like (sitting properly)
2-Can you talk during the show? (No, only if the people on stage ask me to)–this is another one she breaks, but it’s worth trying to teach it to her anyways.
3-How do we show appreciation? (we clap)
These days we also ad a reminder that if she needs to go to the bathroom she needs to tell us so we can take her.
The good thing about Children’s theater is that it often does require audience participation, which lets the little ones get some of that energy out. Shows are also between 45 and 90 minutes, so it’s not the time investment of a Broadway Show (usually clocking in between 2.5 and 3 hours). Tickets are inexpensive (relatively speaking) so if it doesn’t work out, it’s a 30 dollar investment, not a 100+ dollar investment (well, the touring stuff like Disney and Elmo are expensive, but the SRT productions are very affordable).
The key to getting your child into theater is not to reach too far too fast.
- Don’t take them to something that they’re not ready for (example-Annie came through Singapore, and Charlotte’s web is coming soon–neither are age appropriate/attention span appropriate for E. I had to accept that she just wasn’t ready yet and not take her.)
- Accept that you may not always be as interested as they are, and their engagement is what counts. (These days, we usually only buy two tickets to a show, and there are times when we do rock/paper/scissors or scissors/paper/stone as it’s called locally to decide who gets to stay home).
- Use age recommendations as a guideline. For any given production your child may or may not be a good fit for a wide variety of reasons. A lot of children’s theater is based on children’s books–did your child like that book?
- Try it once and see how it goes-don’t buy tickets to everything and then get disappointed if your child just isn’t ready yet.
- I’d say two/two and half is the youngest you should expect that a child may be ready for the occasional show. Apart from Sesame Street Live, we did one or two other shows between 2 and 3. We did more last year (maybe 5 or 6), and this year we’ve been doing almost every production she’s ready for that has fit into our schedule.
What’s coming soon in Singapore? (links are to sistic)
- Now through April 21rst- The Little Company is doing Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- May 18/19 for older children (can they handle the book?)-Charlotte’s Web is coming
- May 29-June 2- Tiddler and other Terrific Tales (based on the Julia Donaldson books)
- July 4-14–The Three Little Pigs is being performed in Mandarin
- August 29-September 29–The Tale of the Frog Prince