Songs for the Struggling Artist

How to talk to your kids about theatre
February 25, 2013, 12:21 am
Filed under: art, education, theatre | Tags: , ,

I’m in a café trying to write a play. A woman comes in with a four-year-old. After they sit down, she asks him about the play he saw in school that day.
Her first question is: “Were they good?”
Her second question is: “Would you like to be on the stage?”
And from there, the chat about the show was essentially over. Nowhere in this conversation did the kid get to talk about what he actually saw on the stage, nor how he felt about it, nor did he get to say anything about the content or the experience.
It wasn’t a big deal, this conversation; it was just an adult and a child processing the day. But it made me think about how we talk about theatre in general in this country. I think this is actually the norm. The average theatregoer is essentially responding to these same two questions and says things like “They were so talented!” and “I could never do that!” or “They weren’t so good. I could have done that.”
And the content of the piece disappears in the conversation. This line of thinking leads to an undiscerning audience that is only concerned with talent and imagining themselves onstage. This sort of audience leads to uninteresting art.
So in the interest of developing a more vibrant discerning audience of the future, here are some questions you could ask children when they see a show:
What was it about? What happened on the stage? What did you remember? What was your favorite part? How did it make you feel? Was there anything you didn’t like? What did it make you think about? What does it make you curious about?


2 Comments so far
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I think sometimes it is easier to focus on the execution than it is to deal with issues brought up by theater and art, issues that can make us feel a little naked. When people ask me what I think of something, I try to avoid evaluating it and instead describe my experience, but some people press really hard. They don’t want to waste their time if the performance is “bad”. But sometimes bad just means different or unexpected.

Comment by katmcdaniel

True! And I think your strategy of describing your experience is a great one. Sometimes I encourage students to just stick to the facts. What did they see? What did they hear? What did the audience do? That sort of stuff.
We definitely have the sort of culture that is chock full of opinions and everyone is expected to have one on everything! It might well be a revolutionary act to not give an opinion sometimes.

Comment by erainbowd

I'd love to hear from you. Gentleness and kindness encouraged and appreciated.

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