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All the world’s a stage: How live theatre impacts kids

A five-year-old knows the real value of children's theatre, they just express it a little differently than adults try to. 

Children experience a play right along with its actors. They are struck by the physical presence of live theatre, and no instant replay – the performances must go on, and its audience with it. 

Live theatre requires respect and attention or one misses out and for most children, this respect is given honestly. Those exposed to live theatre share the achievement of regular people who confidently assume new roles and parameters on stage with the sweep of the curtain. And again, no chance for replay – just like life! Not a bad message for children in these times of instant everything. Each performance of a play has great value because it is unique, always a little different, and never too certain. 

Theatre is an occasion to witness creative expression on levels beyond just what we see and hear. Children feel the glee, anticipation, and sadness, the urgency that actors portray – sometimes more than the actors themselves. Kids own this experience, and no viewer shares in theatrical achievement more honestly and readily as a child. 

Perhaps the most unique thing about theatre is that it is different for everyone. Who or what inspires the image a child takes home is the child's very own. While some appreciate the mystique of Cinderella, others are more impressed by the actress who portrays the heroine. Some kids are captured by the excitement and flow of the plot. Other children really love a particular costume, a musical piece, or the beautiful set pieces. 

Consider live theatre as an opportunity for a child to be inspired to examine their own horizons and effects on the stage around them. Theatre invites children to consider personal dreams and ambitions, however small – or different – they may seem. 

Of course, the human factor remains in theatre while it is lost in other forms of visual entertainment like movies and television. While these other forms have their benefits, a child who does not see a live dramatic presentation misses out on a critically important element – the witnessing of personal human achievement in the moment that it happens. You can't get that from a movie. 


Monique is a writer, photographer, and parent, working with StoryBook Theatre Society in Calgary.


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