It’s Never Too Early to Introduce Your Children to the Arts

Wednesday night we took our two older children (ages 5 and 9) to the Panto of Cinderella, put on by the People’s Light Theater in Malvern, PA.  It was my husband’s idea, and I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about it.  I love musical theater, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been to a show.  And taking the kids along was not my idea of a good time.  Since we still had to pay for a babysitter for the youngest child, I felt like I was wasting precious resources that could have been spent on a date night or a short getaway.  Let’s just say I take my evenings out very seriously as they don’t come along very often.

Interestingly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  While I’m sure I would have appreciated a night out alone with my husband, seeing my kids’ enjoyment of the show was worth far more than a little alone time.  I was surprised at how they got into the whole production.

The vaudeville-inspired show — the Cinderella story set in the roaring ’20s — encouraged much audience participation, and my usually reserved 9-year-old son could hardly contain his excitement.  He was whooping and shouting with the best of them.  A couple of times I had to tell him to tone it down because the woman in front of us was visually wincing at his loud cat calls.

My 5-year-old alternated between being utterly mesmerized and asking a zillionty-one questions.  She is still at that age where she is trying to differentiate between real and make-believe.  Both children said they wanted to go again, although my 5-year-old was worried that she might be forced to be in a play.  Once I assured her that she could rest easy in her role as an audience member, she declared she wanted to come back and see it every day.

We won’t be going back every day, but I’m pretty sure we will return next year.  Evidently People’s Light does a holiday Panto every year.  I had heard great things about People’s Light, but this was my first visit.  I’ve enjoyed shows at the Walnut Theater downtown Philadelphia, but I learned this weekend that we don’t have to travel to the city for quality theater.  It was a small cast of obviously seasoned performers who skillfully worked the crowd and clearly love their jobs.  I have a background in singing, and I was thoroughly impressed with the music.  They brought in a lot of local references which delighted the audience.  It was creative and innovative, and we left promising each other to make the holiday Panto at People’s Light an annual family tradition.

My husband and I marveled on the way home at the interest and excitement our children expressed for live theater.  It’s not the sort of thing that I would have made a priority at their ages if my husband hadn’t taken the initiative to get these tickets. While I always enjoyed theater as a child, it was a rare treat.

Unlike my 5-year-old, who is terrified at the thought of being put on stage, I have always secretly wanted to be up there singing and dancing and hamming it up.  I had a very short stint as Mary, the mother of Jesus, in my church’s Christmas pageant when I was high school, and I just ate it up.  I don’t know why I never pursued theater.  I guess I never had the right opportunity.  Instead, I did all my performing in the choir.

We will definitely be making cultural events more of a priority with our children from now on.  The excitement in their eyes was well-worth the cost, and I want to be sure they grow up with an appreciation for the arts.  So many women I know say they could never drag their husbands to a musical, but my man’s man not only goes willingly, he initiates the events.  I credit his parents and his early exposure to the theater.  I hope our children will grow up to have the same appreciation that we do.