Welcome to the official Hamilton Players blog: All the world's a stage...

Thoughts and ruminations on all things theater...and then some!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Theater Etiquette Part 2: Children and live theater? YES!

Live theater can be a magical and memorable experience for children of all ages. It truly is one of life's greatest cultural treasures.  When the experience is done well, it can create a lasting joy and appreciation for theater for the rest of their lives.  Done poorly, it can be a disaster for everyone:  the child, the rest of the party, and the other patrons.  What makes the difference?  Preparation and education.  Below are some guidelines for bringing children to the theater.

1. Show selection is the foundation on which everything else is built.  If you bring a child to a show that they won't enjoy or understand then it will be impossible to keep them engaged in the production.  Not all shows are a good fit for children; including musicals.  Make sure you have selected a show that will be of interest.  Shows designed for children (like Broadway Jr. shows or ones based on children's books like Charlotte's Web) are a good starting spot.  And remember, just because a musical is a classic, doesn't mean it doesn't have adult content.  Even The Sound of Music has Nazis!  Everyone is different, but typically:  Toddlers through the age of 4 do well with short productions (>40 minutes) with a lot of audience participation.  Pre-schoolers, ages 4-5 can handle longer shows (50-75 minutes) as long as the material is interesting to them.  Another plus to choosing a show designed for children is that the actors expect a certain amount of fidgeting, as that's part and parcel of childhood!

2. Get your tickets for seats near the aisle, if possible.  That way if it turns out that it just isn't a sit quietly kind of day (and don't we all have those?), you'll be able to take your child out to the lobby for a break.  The House Manager will be probably be able to help you rejoin the show later.

3. Speaking of tickets, ALL patrons require a ticket no matter their age or if you expect them to sit on your lap.  (And please remember that having a child sit on your lap can block the view of the person behind you.)

4.  Make sure children use the restroom before the show. Remember:  their bladders are smaller than yours!

5. Go over general theater etiquette with your kiddoes before they arrive at the theater.

  • They will be expected to be quiet, sit still in their own chair and not disturb others around them
  • They should not put their feet on the seats or kick the seat in front of them
  • They should not stand during the performance
  • They cannot eat in the theater
6.  It is also helpful to let them know what to expect from a show:
  • Theater lights will dim at the beginning of the show and it may get quite dark
  • Sometimes there a sudden, loud noises in a show
  • Sometimes the audience claps during a show (after a song or at the end of a scene)
  • Let them know if there will be an intermission and that you will be watching a second part after a short break
  • Everyone can join in to clap and show appreciation for the actors at the end of the show!
7. And tell them a bit about the plot of the show so they know in advance who the characters are and the generalities of what will happen in the show.

8. Remind them that the actors are real people just like them.  They may be wearing a mask or makeup, but underneath they are a real person!

The memories created by a live theater experience will last a lifetime. It can be a life-changing event and a wonderful experience for anyone of nearly any age.  (An exception may be babes-in-arms because there is not way to prepare them or explain what is going on.  Loud noises and changing lights can startle an infant and cause distress that  results in fear and/or startled crying.  For the benefit of everyone - including the infant! - we do discourage you from bringing babies to a live theater production.)

With a little bit of preparation, live theater can be an exciting part of any child's life!


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