On the Town Survival Guide: Theater

On the Town Survival Guide: Theater

- in Things to do

The theater, the theater, can you really take your little one to the theater? Absolutely! In the latest installment in my “On the Town Survival Guide” series, I share some tips about how to experience the excitement of live theater with your child.

Select Your Show

There are several things to consider when choosing a live show to take your child to see: content, length, location, time. My suggestion is to start with shows specifically geared toward children. We are lucky in Cleveland to have a ridiculously large selection of live theater options and there is no shortage of shows geared specifically toward kids.

While “Aladdin” may be a tempting option, the Playhouse Square Broadway Series shows serve a mainly adult audience. Older children who can sit, understand, be quiet, and maintain attention will certainly enjoy the show. But for the little ones, I think sticking to specifically child-friendly shows is a better plan.

The Children’s Theater Series at Playhouse Square offers a four-show series that all are age-appropriate and fun. This year’s series includes “Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “The Gruffalo,” and “Guess How Much I Love You & My Little Storybook.”

This will be the second season that our family has had season tickets to the Children’s Theater Series.

Not only do these shows expose children to the beauty of our Playhouse Square theaters, but I was amazed at how relaxed they are. Children can ask questions to their parents, enjoy snacks, and just generally do what they need to understand and enjoy the show. Also, the shows are around an hour each, so the length is perfect for littles.

Playhouse Square also offers select shows as Sensory Friendly Programming, an amazing option for families who want to enjoy the theater, but may be challenged by a traditional theater environment.

Talespinner Children’s Theatre is Cleveland’s professional children’s theater company, which develops and produces original theater pieces geared to children. Their shows are creative, colorful, and perfect for kids to begin to explore theater.

Beck Center for the Arts offers a Youth Theater Season that includes “Snow White’s Adventures,” “All Greek to Me,” “The Laramie Project,” and “Annie.” If your kids love their experience, they can even take classes right at the Beck Center, too!

The Fine Arts Association is putting on family-friendly performances of “The Little Mermaid” and “Winnie the Pooh” and, similar to the Beck Center, also offers classes to those who get bit by the theater bug.

Another great option is high school or grade school performances, which are often appropriate in length, subject matter, and formality for the little ones.

Prepare for What You’ll See and Talk About it After

With children, more information is better. If you’re going to see “The Little Mermaid,” watch the movie first. If it’s a play based on a book, read the book. The more familiarity your child has with the characters, the more excited they’ll be and the more engaged they’ll stay during the show, versus getting lost and tuning out. You know how you keep listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack? It’s like that.

After the show, talk about what you saw, how it made you feel, and revisit the underlying book or movie. You’ll be amazed at how even the smallest children can grasp complex emotions displayed on stage. Cement the experience by talking about it.

And it’s not just the subject matter. Normal parts of the theater experience like dimming lights, applause, and intermission are all new to children. Preparing them for those occurrences maximizes your chances for a great experience.

Snack it Up

As with anything with children, prepare for success by making sure they’re fed before the show and snagging some snacks for during the performance (the Playhouse Square hot pretzels are seriously delicious.)

Minimize distractions like hunger and tiredness, so that full focus can be given to the performance.

We have had amazing theater experiences already with our son and he still talks about many of the shows he’s seen. Like anything else, by being prepared and making smart choices, you can begin your child’s cultural exploration of theater at a very early age and can reap the benefits for years to come.

Other On the Town Survival Guides:

Cedar Point

Indians Game

Fine Dining

From Cleveland That I Love,


1 Comment

  1. Please don’t forget the community theater companies like Chagrin Valley Little Theater and the Mercury Theater Company. In addition, Heights Youth Theatre has been putting on children’s plays for 60+ years—-I should know, as I went to their shows frequently as a child. And, many high schools put on musicals that are kid-friendly. For example, Cleveland Heights High School has Shrek playing 11/2-5/17, with a cast that includes actors from elementary, middle, and high school.

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