Tuesday, March 5, 2013


On a warm and rainy Saturday, I dressed my four-year-old in a button-down Oxford shirt, combed his hair, and took him to the theatre.

It was a last-minute decision for me -- looking for something to do on a weekend, growing weary of the flu-infested indoor playgrounds, and still weeks away from a decent spring day. A friend of mine mentioned that she was taking her kids to see Alice in Wonderland at our local theatre.

::blink, blink, blink:::

Live theatre? Four-year-olds? She told me that she had recently taken her daughter to the movies and she had done quite well and although my son had never seen live theatre, he was no stranger to the feature-length movie. I was optimistic and actually kind of giddy about it.

Transfixed by the set (and the snacks) almost immediately.
I freakin' love theatre. I love musicals, when the entire company explodes in full voice as soon as the house lights go down and I love dramas, with one solitary spotlight on a sparse stage. If the seats are comfortable and the show is well-done, I like theatre better than movies. (And I love movies.) One of my "mommy-fantasies" has always been to take my child to Broadway and instill a love of theatre in him, too. And while we're not exactly there yet, we are here. In our small town with ongoing children's shows on the weekends.

While the main shows are part of the "Broadway Series" starring professional actors with a full orchestra, the Saturday children's shows feature mostly kids from the acting classes and their teachers with just a few instruments in the pit.
Alice in Wonderland is not a story that my son knew going into this production. And, despite the striking similarities to The Wizard of Oz, a show with which he is quite familiar, he still had to work hard to follow the sometimes complex story. But this is what theatre does. It captivates. The songs and the lights and the fanciful costumes engaged him to the point where he didn't even know he was making connections and learning something new. He asked questions throughout, often at full voice, which kids are wont to do, despite the overall hush of a theatre. He wanted to know why a cat could talk and why the bunny was late. Why was the door so small and what did she drink to get tall? Frankly, I wasn't sure how much of it he was taking in, but he put his snacks down and applauded at all the appropriate places and seemed to laugh at all the right jokes.

As soon as the show let out, he asked to go to the library and get an Alice in Wonderland book so he could "see where Alice was sleeping." He had apparently gleaned that the whole thing was a dream, but there were holes in the story. My theatre-loving mama-heart nearly burst. "Of course! Of course we can go to the library to further research something you learned in the theatre!" (Seriously, does it get better than this?)

A highlight: sitting on the Queen of Hearts' lap afterward.

I had no idea whether taking my preschooler to the theatre was going to be a decision I ended up regretting or not, but, given the potential payoff, it seemed like a risk worth taking. And I'm so glad I did. How old were your kids the first time they saw live theatre? What do you think is the ideal age for the introduction?

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