I watched a parent who had spent over two-hundred dollars on tickets utterly drop the ball. Last Christmas, as we left The Nutcracker, a little girl bombarded her mother with questions. Frustrated with the vague answers she was receiving, the little girl said, "I don't get it." Sadly, the mom replied, "It's ballet, you're not supposed to get it." I groaned silently at the lost opportunity. With a little preparation, you can make theater an amazing family affair.
1. Read the book. Many classic plays and musicals are based on classic stories. Take advantage of this opportunity. When we saw The Nutcracker we read at least 15 variations of the story. There are often a wide variety of illustration styles and even storylines when dealing with classics. Don't underestimate the power of your local library!
2. Watch the movie, then don't. You want your child to understand the storyline and basic plot. Watching a movie version of the performance allows you to pause and discuss without disrupting anyone. I recommend watching the movie once with your child and then maybe letting them enjoy it a few times on their own.
Here is the key: at least a month before the show put the movie away. You don't want your child whispering, "Pssst. That didn't happen in the movie." every five minutes during the show.
3. Get the soundtrack. If you are seeing the musical, be sure to get the soundtrack beforehand. Have you ever gone to a concert where your favorite band played all the unreleased songs they are working on? The music is good, but you don't recognize it. You cannot sing the lyrics with them. You are not part of the event.
If your child knows all the hits, they will enjoy themselves more. Our ladies went crazy when they heard Shipoopi at The Music Man. Knowing the songs also allows your child to focus on other aspects during the performance. While they sing along with the tunes in their head they have the opportunity to be awed by the dancing, costumes, and live voices!
A wise friend of mine, upon retiring after thirty years of service to the Montessori community, told me:
A child is like the moon
reflecting the light in their universe.
This analogy has always stuck with me. Our children echo our parenting style, our religious beliefs, our creativity, our curiosity, and our enthusiasm. If you want your child to love theater, get excited. Answer their questions happily.
5. Make it an adventure. If you spend the money to buy theater tickets, book the time to make it an all-day adventure. Get dressed up. Make plans to enjoy dinner and lively discussion after a matinee. If you are seeing an evening show, do something quick and crazy, like eating ice cream at 9:45 pm with your six-year-old. Make it a family affair or a special one-on-one date. The opportunities are endless.
Bonus Tip: Try to get tickets for the first row of the Mezzanine. It gives your child a wide view of the performance. It allows them to enjoy the show without it being overwhelming or too loud. You also won't have to worry about any really tall folks sitting in front of your family!
Have you taken your little one to any shows recently?
I'd love to hear what your family saw and hear your opinion! This week I ordered one of our girls' Christmas presents. We've got tickets to see the musical Mary Poppins after the holidays. I cannot wait. They are going to *love* it.