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Tale as old as time...

One of my earliest memories is theatrical. I remember my grandmother taking me to a puppet show at the local library--was it Snow White?--and the room was packed. I craned my head over the tops of the front rows to see and I don't recall anything else other than the stage that had been setup and the feeling of "special" that comes from seeing a performance and having someone you love show it to you for the first time. The Mama and I frequently comment that both of us come from theatre backgrounds and it's one of the things we've left behind as parents that we'd like to return to when we grow old. We've seen only a handful of plays together when time allows because we'd both already left that phase of our lives when we met. It's like each of us has this huge, untapped creative streak neither of us has experienced about the other.

Most people know I'm a huge supporter of science and technology education for young children. But our family is also a huge supporter of the arts. Whether it's dance classes, diversity in music, literature and a full bookshelf, or the stage. Every day last year my daughter saw the advertising sign for Mary Poppins at our local middle school and asked to go. So, when the 7th and 8th grade performing arts program put up a sign for Beauty and the Beast, we knew we had to make plans to take her to a matinee.

My son didn't want to go (see my post on The Contrarian and his being easily scared) so it became a wonderful daddy-daughter outing. We purchased tickets in advance and she rode on my shoulders as we walked in the bright fall sunshine to the middle school. The tickets were waiting at Will Call just like they should be and the show ended up being about 10-15 minutes late because they had to bring in extra chairs. When we arrived (about 15 min early) the front third of the house was full and my daughter decided she wanted to sit in the very last row anyway. It had the advantage of being higher to see the stage. They asked us to raise our hands if we had empty seats, squeeze together, and fill every seat. It was amazing to see so many younger siblings and families in general crowded in to enjoy a musical theatre performance.

The show was top notch. Frankly, it was better than some of the productions I've seen professionals and college students do. A few of the actors were what you'd expect from typical student shows, but a few also show promising careers in front of them if they choose that route. Excellent singing voices, good adaptation to the stage, good projection, excellent working together as an ensemble for blocking and other set/costume issues. It was very enjoyable. Especially a couple of the big showstopping numbers where the entire cast really knew how to bring excitement.

For my daughter's part, she had trouble following some of the story since Beauty and the Beast is new to her. I did my best to whisper plot points and towards the end of the First Act she asked "how much longer." So I was completely prepared to leave at Intermission if she wasn't haven't a good time or was bored or ready to leave. But, to my surprise, she asked to stay and had her own theories about how the plot would be resolved. She spent time in her own seat, resting her head on my knee, and on my lap snuggled up ready to clap after the songs. When we left, she had questions like "is this here every day?" To which I sadly had to respond, "no." But there will be other plays. We talked about jobs like lighting, sound, backstage helping with makeup, and how many, many people had to work together to give us those lovely couple of hours together.

As she bounced home from a happy time--recounting her favorite moments to me--it really drove home the value of the arts in our schools...

--They teach cooperation.

--You learn about working together for the greater good.

--You learn to put in long hours to see big returns.

--You learn self-confidence.

--You learn how to appreciate people very, very different from yourself.

--You learn about other cultures and history and traditions and creative new ideas that break all the rules.

--Most importantly, our kids learn imagination and creativity and how to bring their passion to others.

Oh, and my daughter's favorite scenes? The beginning. The end. And the part in the woods where the Beast rescues Belle from the wolves. I think I may have a little budding dramaturg.

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