When I was 7 years old my parents took me to the local high school production of Fiddler on the Roof. I don’t really remember how good or bad that particular production was but I will never forget the way the music made me feel. My parents enjoy reminding me that as a child I never stopped talking but Fiddler on the Roof had me entranced. The show is still my favorite to this day.
Taking a child to a live theatrical performance for the first time can be tricky. Each child is very different in the way that they behave or interpret the world. To help make that first trip a little easier we have compiled some tips and tricks from our ushers and from our Associate General Manager and father of four, Jeff Loeb, to help your child enjoy the theatre as much as you do!
Pick the right show.
Do your research to ensure that the material is appropriate for the age of your child. Also be aware that many theaters, including the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, do not allow children under the age of 5. When asked what age he introduced his children to theatre, Loeb replied, “I started taking my kids at age 3 to different events. There is a ton of smaller theaters in LA that offer great family programming. Start small and learn what your kid can enjoy. ” You never know how a child might react to a darkened theatre. “During The Lion King, there were a lot of families that would hang out in the lobby and watch the show on the monitors because their children were afraid to be in the dark theatre.” one Pantages usher explains.
Pick the right seats
Aisle seats are always good when attending with a smaller child. Even if the seats are a little further away from the stage you will be less likely to have someone tall sitting directly in front of your child. The Pantages does have booster seats located at each entrance to the theatre. Be sure to grab one as soon as you get there because they will go fast for family friendly shows. Sitting on the aisle also allows easy access to the restrooms at intermission as well as the ability to get up during the performance if your child is not reacting well to the show. Loeb says his trick is to get seats near the back of the theatre or in the mezzanine where he knows he can make a quick escape if needed and then move closer over time.
Watch the Show Before You Go
Let your kids know what to expect. Is there a movie version of the show, or a book or YouTube clip? Get them excited about the characters they are going to see live. Listen to the cast album whenever they are in the car with you. When the song comes on during the show, it’s already a familiar favorite.
Theatre Etiquette and Kids
Getting your child to understand theatre etiquette can be tricky. Some adults still struggle with the concept. Loeb says, “We talk about what a good audience member is in terms of when to applaud (when you think the performance warrants), when you can talk and when it’s okay to take photos (never during the show).” Reminding children that it is something grown ups do is always a good way to get them to participate by making them feel included. “Something parents tend to forget is that those light up shoes, bracelets and other glow in the dark things can be very distracting.” says one Pantages usher. “Every time the child moves the shoes will flash and all of the ushers think it is a camera.”
Taking your children to the stage door to meet the characters they just saw performing live in front of them is always a good experience. Even shy children are delighted to be up close to someone they’ve just seen performing. It is a good time to remind them how different the theatre experience is from movies or television and makes the outing special. You might also walk away with an autograph.
When asked for any final thoughts Loeb said,”Kids may not love the show the way you do but they will love going to a special event with their parents or grandparents. My kids remember going to shows with their grandparents or cousins, not just with me. It’s a special event and if you let them know you think it is special, they will want to go with you again and again. I personally love when going to the theatre is a family tradition passed down to the next generation. It’s a wonderfully communal event to have 2,700 people all watch the same thing at the same time live.”