First of all, I love Childsplay. Yes they gave me free tickets, but before child number 2 was old enough to need activities we were season pass holders. So this love comes from long before I got tickets to see a play. In fact, it stretches back to my childhood. I loved them even then.
This weekend we were fortunate to see the production of The Velveteen Rabbit. It was a trial play for the littlest in our family. At 2 3/4 she is not very good at sitting for long periods of time and is a bit antsy since we are still potty training. It was also a reliving of history for me as this was the first play we took my eight year old to way back when she was 3 1/2.
I must say that I was impressed. For a good forty-five minutes my youngest child was entranced, not sitting still, but entranced. She bounced from my lap to her dad and sister’s laps, but she paid attention. She exclaimed and shouted, “There’s a butterfly daddy”. For the most part she made it through that play and thought it was a pretty cool experience. She was gone for the last fifteen minutes because she couldn’t calm down again after using the restroom, but still, for her age they were able to hold her attention marvelously.
This is an excellent first play for a child. Every child imagines that their animals are “real” and that they are responsible for their care and fun. Having that reinforced by a great story is an awesome way to confirm their standing in the world. To tell them, without telling them, that what they do and experience is the same as what other children do and experience. The Velveteen Rabbit has a happy and magical ending, that children hope and wish could be true. Childsplay is even keeping the magic alive by enabling the children to get a letter from the nursery fairy. Such thought and care for children and their theatre experiences is essential to creating a true love of the art and Childsplay are, in my opinion, the masters of this experience.
I for one, love the magic of the theatre. From the oversized set pieces used to make the boy seem small and the platform shoes that make Nana seem large; to the fact that the boy was played by a female actress and Nana by a male actor. I love that in this world of imagination children can see that there truly are no gender boundaries, really no boundaries at all. They can pretend to be whatever and whomever they want to be. Their bed can be a pirate ship, a wild jungle and an airplane. How many toys let children play in this manner anymore? Aside from a few children’s shows, how many acknowledge and celebrate the imagination?
The touching moment of the evening was when my oldest and I both teared up when the Velveteen Rabbit was put in the refuse pile. I reached over and grabbed her hand, knowing that she wouldn’t want me to acknowledge how sad she was and that it showed on her face, but also knowing that having me there would make it a little better.
That to me is what live performances are about. That shared emotion with those you are with and strangers who are experiencing the same roller coaster with you. You don’t always get that with movies and television as they are so pervasive that I find it rare that people actually focus on the movie or show. Instead they are checking their phones or facebook and twitter. A live performance if you let it can draw you in and hold you in a way that recorded versions can’t. You never know what will happen in a live show and no performance is ever exactly the same. There is something magical about that fact.
This is why I love Childsplay, and why I am so grateful for the programs they take to schools. Every child should be able to experience a professional theatre experience in their young life, even if they can’t afford it or their parents don’t want to go. Every child should see the magic of the theatre and learn that while during the show it seemed real, there are always tricks going on backstage to make it feel that way. Every parent should experience this with their child if possible, for there is nothing like becoming a kid again by watching and experiencing something new with your own children.
May you never lose the magic, awe and wonder of childhood.