Last night our youngest, Edie, 11, was going to spend the night with one of her school friends. Her friend rang our doorbell and I answered. I opened the door and said, “Oh, we’re not buying anything today, come back tomorrow.” and shut the door. Edie was right behind me, ready to go out to see her friend. I looked at her and her eyes were wide open. She said, “Dad!”
I said, “Oh, was that your friend? Sorry!” I opened the door and her friend was standing there, not sure what was going on. She saw Edie was smiling and she knew I was messing with her. I told her to come in. I said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were a door-to-door salesman.” I noticed our vacuum was still out (From when Edie used it during chore time), so I said: “You must be here to vacuum. Good, there it is, please be sure to get under the couch.” Both Edie and her friend’s eyes were as big as saucers and they had huge smiles on their faces. They were just waiting for the next silly thing I was going to say!
That anticipation, the expectation of something fun being just around the corner – THAT is children’s theatre to me. That is what I am all about. From the moment the kids enter the front door of the theatre, enter the theatre space, sit down, lights dim, curtain opens— MAGIC. One thing after another, one experience after another, one surprise after another, one laugh after another…. Man, it’s magical! A theatre that does everything it can to put as much of that magic into their performance experience as possible cannot fail.
Have plenty of color and posters lining your halls, make your theatre space/auditorium a place where magic happens regularly, pipe in kid’s music while they’re waiting in their seats (“Once Upon a Time” by Wichita Children’s Theatre is perfect!). Have one (or more) of your actors come out and do a preshow where they explain the theatre rules, tell a couple jokes, juggle, etc. Get the kids “in the mood and in the groove.” And then, when the show starts, you have kids (and grown-ups, too!) clamping at the bit to have a wonderful time in your theatre!