We recently went to a production that wasn’t a huge hit will all three of us (Nugget like it more than Chicken and I did). It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t one that all of us loved. It was a very busy weekend and theatre tickets aren’t the cheapest, and I momentarily questioned why we had bothered.
I was specifically able to answer that question with these experiences from a show we didn’t even love.
1) Nugget got to spend an hour giggling and dancing with his best friend while they shared this imaginary world brought to life
2) During the backstage tour that we did, Chicken got to have a discussion about the importance of details in an imaginary world and what can be beneficial about doing something good/creative even if others don’t notice
3) An adult male that Nugget admires complimented his choice of nail polish color (shimmery purple). FYI- that’s not always the response he gets
4) When asked by an actor about his favorite part of the show, Nugget said that it was hearing Spanish on stage. Not only did it make my heart happy and bring a smile to the actor’s face, he got to have a conversation with that actor in Spanish that seemed to please them both.
All of a sudden I felt better about attending the show and appreciated the experience more. Then I broadened my thought process. We go to A LOT of theatre. That’s a lot of time and money that we could spend on other things. Why do we keep doing it? My list of reasons grew even longer.
1) It has helped them learn to sit and pay attention, a skill that serves those early school years well
2) It has fostered discussions related to diversity, racism, gender equality, history, and many other topics that I don’t know we would have talked about otherwise
3) It has helped them think critically and form opinions about all kinds of things. They ask good questions about what they have heard and seen, and incorporate that into their own thoughts and beliefs
4) Talking with actors and getting their programs signed at the local children’s theaters has given them practice sharing their thoughts with others and giving honest and specific compliments to others
5) It has fostered their own creativity outside of the shows. Whether it be recreating their own version of the show, drawing posters for the shows and taping them to our walls, making/wearing costumes related to the show, choosing to read books about a topic introduced to them through a show, rearranging our furniture to mimic a set they have seen, or spending their time singing and dancing to their new favorite tune, it has engaged them in creative activities
6) It has expanded their vocabulary. Sure, I had to explain the term polygamy to my five year old, but we’ve also gotten to talk about lots of other words and idioms
7) They learn and apply knowledge to new situations. When a peer asked Chicken when you become and adult, she responded “18. Because in 21 Chump Street it says that since Justin was over 18, he was charged as an adult.” Perhaps not the best or most age appropriate example, but she was able to immediately retrieve that information because she had context for it. Nugget often bursts into specific song lyrics related to a topic he or others are talking about. He could also probably win the Jeopardy category “Early America Presidents” at this point thanks to Hamilton and all the additional reading we have done related to the figures in the show
8) It has taught them to pay attention to detail. They notice costume elements that I don’t catch. They think about why a specific prop was used or why a certain staging choice was made. They talk about lighting and the impact it made. Is it nerdy? Yes. Is noticing detail and thinking about what it means a skill that will serve them well? Yes.
9) It has broadened their horizons outside of theatre. Chicken decided to audition for a play herself, and being on stage brought her confidence and connection with others that made me so happy for her. Nugget has finally gotten to live his dream of doing backstage and technical work with a local community theater, and it has been fantastic to seem him take his job so seriously and take pride in the work he is doing. They have both found topics to explore further through books, songs, and lessons.
10). It’s fun. It provides a way for us to spend an afternoon together sharing a fun experience and sharing our thoughts and opinions with each other.
Is going to theater a privilege I am lucky enough to share with my kids because of our life circumstances? Absolutely. Would everyone find it as enjoyable and impactful? Probably not. But it has given a lot to our family and I see the benefits playing out in my children. And that means we will keep going.