Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are You Ever Too Young for the Circus?

Throughout the spring, we have invited select friends and colleagues to guest blog for The New Victory. Look for guest posts about circus, Times Square for families and more! Today’s guest post is by Adam Gertsacov.

As a professional clown I often get asked what age you can start taking your kid to see shows. Before I became a parent, I would hem and haw, ask about their kids’ “maturity level” or propensity to cry and then ultimately I’d equivocate: “Well, it’s up to you. You know your child better than anyone.” In other words, it depends.

Now that I’m a parent, I’ve changed my response. When someone asks me when they can start taking their kid to see a circus, I can confidently respond: “Right now.” I don’t think you are ever too young to go see a circus or a clown show or a puppet show or an ice skating display or a fireworks display, or even Disney World.

Normal Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post cover

Yes, children can get scared easily or might not understand everything that is going on, and yes, they may not remember it ten years from now. But their enjoyment is in the now, and the shared experience that you have with them makes it worth having to explain a few times why the man was balancing plates on his chin or how a contortionist can contort.

I’m not saying that every show is right for kids (although I have a friend whose hit Off-Broadway show is decidedly adult, and his two year old kid sees it once a week and loves it). And I'm not saying that every kids is right for shows either -- if your kid is deathly afraid of clowns or a crier or a major distractor of the artists or the audience -- you probably should either not go or be prepared to make a quick exit [EXIT, STAGE RIGHT!].

What I am saying is that seeing live entertainment with your children is a great way to build bonds, share experiences and develop in your child a love for live entertainment. They are never going to learn about things they don’t experience.

My two year old son saw his first circus at around seven months old and seemed to love every minute of it (he was a little put off by the thunderous applause after each act; during the acts themselves he just kind of looked on in wonder). As he’s gotten older, he has seen a lot more circuses, and clown shows, and puppet shows, and a performance art wedding, and two ballet choreography showcases, and of course, daddy’s flea circus a number of times.

Naturally, we attend shows at The New Victory , but we also see shows in lots of less traditional venues, such as tents, parks, street fairs, mini-theaters, and (of course) our living room. He’s not always the perfect audience member, he sometimes asks too loud questions at inappropriate moments, and now his pretend play leans towards lots of displays of acrobatic tricks and cries of “Ladies and Gentlemen!” But overall, he’s developing curiosity, physical skills, a great sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic. Surprise, surprise. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Note: Circus INcognitus, now playing at The New Victory Theater, is recommended for ages 4+

Adam Gertsacov is the most educated clown in America (barring certain elected officials.) He wears many hats, including those of a professional clown, a P.T. Barnum impersonator, a flea circus impresario, and the esteemed hat of the Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Maryland. In his copious free time, he blogs at http://www.clownlink.com/ and http://www.dadapalooza.com/.

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