The performing arts are an integral part of human history. For hundreds of years, this has been the medium used by our ancestors to tell stories, share history, and express their interpretations of the world around them. As a storytelling tool and as a way to explore historical context (both ancient and modern), it’s important to take children to the theater for a variety of reasons. But how does it benefit your child? And how do you explain the basic etiquette of attending? Jenny Ballard, the Managing Artistic Director at Theatre Baton Rouge, offers her expertise on the subject.
Much of the benefit of experiencing theatrical performances is what you and your child can learn from them. In terms of becoming “cultured,” plays explore a modicum of things: life experiences, morality, good and evil, reflections, and hope for (or fear of) the future.
“Theater teaches life skills in addition to theatre skills,” says Ballard. “Such as self-discipline, problem-solving, teamwork, self-confidence, self-actualization, and public speaking. It also teaches empathy, which is a learned skill, especially needed in
If you or your child are nervous about attending a performance without much preparation or background knowledge about theater, getting involved at your local theater is a great way to create familiarity while gaining an insider’s view of how productions work behind the scenes.
Beyond volunteering, plenty of theatres like Theatre Baton Rouge provide resources to help your child learn more about the performing arts:
“Bring them to our Young Actors Program’s shows, and our family-friendly shows! Also, classes and summer camps are a great way to immerse your children in a safe theatre experience!” encourages Ballard.
So, how do you become a good audience member? There are both spoken and unspoken rules when it comes to attending a performance. Teaching your child proper theater etiquette requires discussing it with them and modeling from you.
“Please remind them that it’s not a movie theater! The actors are live and can hear everything that’s happening and being said,” warns Ballard. “It’s always a great idea to talk your children through the experience they’re about to have. Ideas include reading source material with your kids, looking at images, and watching movie versions that may exist.”
And of course, there are other practical rules and precautions to keep in mind:
- Be quiet, unless it is absolutely necessary to talk.
- Silence and put away cellphones and tablets.
- Arrive on time.
- Have a snack or meal beforehand.
- Use the bathroom before the performance and during intermission.
- Clean up after yourself.
All-in-all, going to the theater is an enriching experience that opens doors for your child to explore the arts, get involved, and give back to their community by finding something they really enjoy and may like to pursue themselves. After all, it’s a great way to explore history and learn a new art form they may not get the chance to see in school!
“Please get your children involved in theater! It’s the only living art form, and it’s been around for thousands of years,” shares Ballard. “Theater is a magical experience, and your kids could end up loving it for life. I certainly did, thanks to my parents!”