By Smarty Guest Blogger, Michelle Long, Director of Education, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
Spending quality time with loved ones and exposing children to the performing arts are the two biggest reasons families typically bring their children to the theatre. While both reasons are incredibly valuable, there are benefits of children attending a live theatre performance that many parents may not realize. These benefits speak to the child’s ability to interact and connect with the world around them and recognize, in themselves and others, how truly alike we are. As theatre artists, we understand that the power of live theatre is the exchange between what is happening on stage and the audience. The audience is the critical ingredient and children bring openness as a part of it. They are unfiltered, honest in their reactions, and willing to suspend disbelief and take the journey that many of us that have moved into adulthood hesitate to do. Some of our favorite moments at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte are school field trip performances, where the theatre is filled with teachers and the children who far outnumber them. There are too many children to shush, and the whispers and giggles of glee that reverberate throughout the room, the warnings that spill out of mouths when a character is in danger, the cries of surprise as Mary Poppins lifts into the air or the apes in Tarzan descend from the catwalks, are the great equalizers. That is the moment theatre becomes a communal experience. It is a fraction of time that cannot be repeated as the makeup of the audience, the people that are in the room together, will never be the same again. Children experience that unique energy in the room, energy that is absent in the distance put between them and the TV or movie screen. They live through the stories in real time, without a pause button, and build empathy for their fellow students, gaining a greater respect and wonder for the world around them. They laugh with others, cry with others, and gasp alongside others at the magic created on the theatrical stage. It is a powerful moment in the life of a child, to see a world come to life in front of their eyes and participate in its creation through response. That is the beauty of theatre. That is the reason every child should have the opportunity to attend, and why we at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte have the most rewarding jobs in the world.
About the author:
Michelle Long is moving into her eighth season as the Director of Education at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. She is a director, writer, educator and actress, and has a lifelong passion for connecting children to the arts. Michelle’s directing credits include: Madagascar – A Musical Adventure, Grace for President, Tarzan the Musical, The Secret Garden and LIARS. This November, she’ll direct The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical. She also serves as a board member for the North Carolina Theatre Conference and Christians in Theatre Arts.