Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
In times past the mark of a cultured person was an appreciation of music and the theater. Sadly in the age of on demand entertainment many kids never benefit from exposure to a live performance of anything more sophisticated than the latest gum chewing tattoo covered pop tramp.
Take the kids to the theater!
Many cities have small community theater troupes that perform children’s plays. Prices are normally very reasonable, and the smaller venues almost guarantee good seats anywhere in the hall.
The Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT.org) is a perfect place to start your child’s adventure. They perform a large variety of shows covering ages from 3-16. My family has enjoyed plays based on the “Junie B. Jones” books, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Miracle Worker”, and many others. One of the best shows for older kids is “The Secret Life of Girls”. The DCT also offers theater classes covering acting and the technical side of theater, and their students often perform in their shows.
Once the child is mature enough to sit through a longer performance, take them to “grown-up” shows. Musicals are great for the younger audience members.
Make going to the theater a special event. Dress up a bit to give the event an air of sophistication that makes it “better” than going to the movies. After the show talk discuss the play. What did they like? How did they feel about the characters and story? If the story is one the child is familiar with, compare the play’s version of the story to the familiar one.
One of my favorite games is “Name That Theme”. The question put to the player is “How many things have you seen before?” The player’s task is to name as many places where the theme has appeared. The movie “A Bug’s Life” is a good example. The base story is straight from “The Magnificent Seven” which in turn is based on “The Seven Samurai”.
The outcome of the game is the opportunity to introduce classic material to the child by providing a link they can understand. Once the classic material has been linked to something familiar to the child, resistance to “old stuff” is greatly reduced.
My daughter likes “Name That Theme” so much we play it after almost every movie or play to see who has spotted the most references to other productions. The Disney Channel is about to release a made for TV movie built around a puree of the old Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies and “West Side Story”. This gave me the chance to introduce the film version of “West Side Story”, and if we get the chance to see “West Side” on the stage, I’m sure to have an enthusiastic companion.
Be prepared, because theater is an enthusiasm that can last a lifetime.