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If you are taking children to the theatre, it is worth your while preparing them for the experience.
THE THEATRE PLAY CAN BE A BIG AND OVERWHELMING EXPERIENCE
The story – which can be both gloomy, scary, and serious – is told with different theatre effects; actors, illumination/darkness, and sound, and all this can be overwhelming.
Not everybody has the needed capability or experience to process a substantial theatre performance. As a first resort, some children choose to leave the auditorium to protect themselves from the strong impressions. This is a completely understandable strategy, but it is a pity to miss the theatre play and not be able to talk about it with those who stayed and watched it to the end.
Preparing the children will contribute to ensuring them a wonderful experience. For example, it is a good idea to talk to them about the theatre play’s story, themes, and effects.
THE THEATRE EFFECTS
Theatre is not like film nor literature. The very fact that the theatre play is happening in the present moment in the room you are in can be overwhelming for the children. A talk about the theatre effects can work to demystify and establish a healthy distance to the things happening on stage.
Among other things, theatre plays consist of sound (music and sound effects), illumination (switching between lighting, darkness, flickering light, bright, and dim light), the actors’ movements (the arrangement), the story (the lines), the costumes, and the props and scenography (the appearance of the auditorium, the stage design and the objects placed on the stage). Sometimes, we use special effects like smoke or fire. Remember to tell the children that underneath the extravagant and sometimes slightly scary costume there is always an actor hiding – a real human being.
THE STORY AND THE THEMES
You can prepare the children for the s theatre play’s storyline by reading the play description aloud to them. You can also talk about the themes that the theatre play handles. If the theatre play is built on a story, you already know (e.g., from a book or movie) you can refer to that.
PLAYING THEATRE AT HOME
You can dramatise parts of the story at home. Drama exercises and role playing give children a better understanding of the nature of theatre and the emotions at play in the story. It will help them realise that the things happening on stage are “just something we are playing.”
We recommend that you arrive well in advance. In the theater, the aim is always to start the performances precisely at the announced time. Once the performance has started, it may not always be possible to enter the auditorium – this is due to safety reasons and out of respect for the experience of other guests and the performers. You can read more about this at www.zeppelin.dk/start.
Arriving early gives you time to familiarize yourself with the surroundings, perhaps look at some of the exhibited pictures from the performance, and sit down for a moment in peace. The experience of calmness upon arrival will contribute to creating a sense of relaxation in the children, enhancing the overall theater experience as a “good thing.”
Take note of your surroundings when entering the theater: where are the steps, where is the door you entered, etc. If you are unsure whether the experience may be overwhelming for the child, consider sitting on the outer edges of the rows so you can exit during the performance, if necessary. Remember that it is dark in the audience rows once the performance has begun. That’s why it is good to be familiar with the layout of the auditorium before sitting down. Also, remember to respect the age limits set for the performances (more on that below).
WHEN YOU ARE SITTING IN THE AUDITORIUM
We advise all adults not to comment on the storyline during the theatre play. Instead, we recommend that you let the children experience the theatre play in their own way. Children react intuitively and that is completely okay!
AFTER THE THEATRE PLAY
After the theatre play, you can meet the actors. It can bring an extra layer to the experience, and it is an effective way to break the illusion in case the theatre play overwhelmed the children. Afterwards, you can talk about how and to what extend the theatre play met your expectations. Did it have the plot that you thought it would? How were the illumination and the sound used? How were the themes addressed?
DRAW WITH YOUR CHILDREN
After the theatre play, it can be a good idea to draw scenes, themes, and props from the theatre play. Drawing is a good way to process an experience. You are more than welcome to send us the drawings!
Respect Age Restrictions for Performances
For Teatret Zeppelin’s own performances, the specified age limit for the audience is carefully chosen for the well-being of both the children, the rest of the audience, and the participating actors on stage. We generally advise against “taking a chance” and bringing a child who is not old enough according to the specified minimum age. The themes can be difficult to understand, and the effects, darkness, and occasional “spookiness” can be overwhelming. It may end up being an unhappy (perhaps first) experience with the world of theater.
MORE INFO ON TAKING CHILDREN TO THE THEATRE
Do you need more information? We recommend that you read more about the topic at www.zeppelin.dk/care