Friday, April 11, 2014

A Baby's First Time at the Theater

Are children ever too young for the theater? While certain museums and theaters put age minimums on their exhibits and shows, there is scientific evidence that confirms the benefits of arts education for children, even before they can walk and talk. So, over time it became increasingly important to us that we look at programming for very young audiences.

Luckily, here at the New Vic we have a focus group practically built-in! In the past year alone, multiple staffers have welcomed new bundles of joy into their families. And with This [Baby] Life happening at our New 42nd Street Studios, we wanted to take advantage of our panel of experts to make sure we had some feedback and helpful thoughts to share for parents who still feel unsure about venturing out to a show for the first time. We enlisted the help of New Victory Digital Services Director Lilaia Kairis and her 14-month-old daughter Siena, who shared some thoughts about their experience. This was Siena's first theater outing!

"I was very excited to bring Siena to see her first New Victory Show," said Lilaia. "About a month ago she started dancing or rocking side to side when listening to music. About a week ago she started singing little songs to herself while she plays. I thought I would have to wait longer for the right opportunity, but luckily, this year, we have two shows that are appropriate for very little ones."

The show, This [Baby] Life by Sally Chance Dance out of Adelaide, Australia, was designed specifically for children, aged 4 to 18 months...and their parents. The company promised an experience that was welcoming and cozy for new parents, but also invited babies to explore the performance space.

"Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect," continued Lilaia, "as I've never been to a show that was created with such a very young audience in mind. I thought the performance would end up being more for me than for her, but after the initial settling down period, you could see the babies getting caught up in watching the performers. A few little ones even became part of the action, which was not at all discouraged! The performers adapted to and were influenced by the sounds and movements of their audience. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch it unfold."

"My favorite moment was when one of the performers played a rainbow-colored xylophone (like I had when I was a kid) and then made it dance in the air like a kite. It was a simple movement, but the babies were absolutely transfixed. I think all of the parents would agree that it was very special."

Aside from the performance, we know there are a lot of additional factors for parents to consider with this sort of outing -- from snack time to bathroom breaks (or changing tables). Our team not only tried to put together an accommodating space for parents and babies' needs, but also built additional activities to get families comfortable venturing out and engaging with the space.

When we asked Lilaia what she thought of the experience beyond the show, she said, "the whole environment was very welcoming, but the staff was particularly helpful in encouraging us to get comfortable on the floor right away and engage with the pre-show activities."

This [Baby] Life completed its run on February 23, but if this sounds like the right fit for you and your family, check out our next show recommended for kids of this age. Baby Rave will play at The Duke on 42nd Street from May 7-18 and is recommended for kids, ages 4 months to 4 years.

Will Lilaia and Siena be back?

"We're coming back for Baby Rave... I'm hoping in a few months she'll be dancing even more!"

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