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?
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