Theatre for Families

By Nora Heston Tarte

Make theatre your family’s next tradition.

For children, attending live theatre performances at a young age increases their ability to feel empathy and demonstrate tolerance. It also enhances literary knowledge in a way reading and watching movies does not. Attending as a family is a positive bonding experience, and tradition gives children comfort and a sense of identity.

“It kind of opens up their minds to a whole new world. A lot of kids see TV and then they come to the theatre and it’s happening right there in front of them,” says Charlie Kirby, Office Manager for Stockton Civic Theatre. “It’s something they can experience first hand.”

In live theatre, the characters, the time period, and the lessons are all experienced—not just observed. Plays express conflict in a way children can understand. Even at the youngest age, theatre performances engage minds, teach valuable lessons, and help busy bodies learn to sit still.

As children grow, they take away more. Plays address human conflict and how people handle hardship, teaching children empathy for others as well as how to process their own emotions. From theatre, kids learn about other walks of life and how people think and interact. They learn “because they see them not as one-dimensional as they would on the TV or a movie screen but as real people,” Charlie explains. “It just brings a sense of realism.”

 “[Live theatre] introduces them to music and to dance and hopefully more theatre,” Charlie says. “Once you establish that as a child, it tends to stay with you your whole life.”

Is your child ready? The biggest indicator of whether or not your child is ready for live theatre is their ability to sit for extended periods of time. During SCT’s youth program (which runs over summer) programs are kept to one-hour to accommodate young viewers. “Their focus tends to wander after a long period of time,” Charlie says of kids ages 6-7.

If you’re not sure if your child is ready for theatre, take them to a movie. That’s a good indicator of how they will fair in a theatre setting. Age-appropriate shows also help. “Call the theatre and ask them, is this age appropriate? They’ll tell you,” Charlie suggests.

 

Local Performances:

Stockton Civic Theatre
Mamma Mia!
Nov. 15—Dec. 10, PG
“Kids seem to really love ABBA,” Charlie says.

The Bob Hope Theatre
Bay Pointe Ballet Presents the Nutcracker
Dec. 9

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