Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two exceptional MTYP shows this season for the Free Press, Snowflake, by Michigan-based silent actor Gale LaJoye (November), and most recently, the Tony-Award winning musical comedy, A Year With Frog and Toad (until January 3).
Last month, while I attended LaJoye’s beautiful portrayal of a homeless man with a gifted imagination in his silent one-man show, Snowflake, I sat in the same row with a mom and her young daughter (I’m assuming about 6 years old). And from what I saw, this mom deserves an award for the pre-amble she gave her daughter before the opening of this most exquisite show.
Their conversation went something like this:
(Pointing to the picture in the program)
Theatre Mom: Do you see this man, he’s a clown, but he won’t be dressed like a clown, he’ll be dressed like a man who lives on the street.
6 year old: Why does he live on the street?
Theatre Mom: That’s a good question. Maybe we’ll find out in the play. His name is Snowflake.
6 year old: Why is his name Snowflake?
Theatre Mom: I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the play will take place in winter. And if this man lives outdoors, then I’m sure he’ll be very cold at night.
6 year old: Will he find a way to get warm?
Theatre Mom: I don’t know but it says here (looking at the program) he’ll use his imagination. (Looking at the stage) I wonder what he’ll find in all that garbage?
And the conversation went on in this manner for quite a long while as Theatre Mom summarized program notes, pointed out interesting set pieces and patiently answered her daughters many questions using simple, easy-to-understand language.
Now, my children are too young to participate in such an eloquent back and forth pre-show discussion with me. But I did once upon a time teach theatre to young people (and write study guides for one of the city’s professional theatre houses), and having taken large groups of students to various matinee performances around the city, I know this much is true: kids, just like adults, enjoy and even benefit from having some background knowledge about a play before entering the doors of a theatre, or in the case of Theatre Mom and her young daughter, while waiting for the show to begin.
Kudos to all the parents who have been bundling up their kids and taking them to museums, plays and the symphony in the midst of this cruel Winnipeg cold. And although getting them there is a wonderful thing, please take the time to brief your kids about the show or exhibit they are about to see beforehand. You’ll be amazed how much more interesting the post-talk with your kids will be when they start linking what they thought was going to happen before the show verses what actually happened. In the case of a play or musical, themes discussed prior will become clearer as the action of the play takes shape and another added bonus (for all) is that there will be less talking during the performance.
If your kids are three and older, I highly recommend you consider taking them to see A Year With Frog and Toad at MTYP; it’s sure to brighten up your mood amidst all this frigid weather. To read my 5 star review of this witty comedy for kids, click here
Between the WSO, RWB, PTE, MTYP and many, many other local venues there are a wealth of opportunities to expose your kids to the arts this holiday season. For a line-up of great holiday options, check out my Parents and the City column in this Saturday’s paper. For last Saturday’s list of holiday outings (some still in effect), click here.
Stay warm everyone, and get out there to enjoy the family friendly Winnipeg cultural scene together!
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