Parenting

We Watch, Too: A Parents’ Roundtable on Theater for Kids

In my first entry of this Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) series, I said I didn’t want to make assumptions on what people think or want from children’s theater. I know most of my desires for pushing the conventions of TYA come from my own childhood and from my new experiences of introducing a small human to the theater. But I was left wondering: How do other parents feel? I interviewed four mothers to see how, and if, their experiences aligned with mine.

I spoke with a mother of three who chose to remain anonymous. I’ll refer to her as Jane in this article. Her children are two, five and eight. Aubrie Canfield has a three-year-old and 10-month-old. Shellie Gauthier has a three-year-old, 13-year-old twins and a 15-year-old. Enci Box has a two-year-old and five-year-old.

Read more at The Clyde Fitch Report. 

 

Why TYA Should Join the Dark Side (of Fairy Tales)

Let’s delve into a pretty common denominator in the world of theater for young audiences (TYA): fairy tales. There is no end to internet lists “revealing” or “discovering” the dark origins of fairy tales, yet it is so surprising that, once upon a time, we actually told children scary stories? Shocking!

Many of the original versions of fairy tales were told to help children and adults confront the very real dangers of their times. Hansel and Gretel is an excellent example and very likely the most well known: it’s famine and hunger that motivate the mother or stepmother (depending on the version) to convince her husband to abandon his children in the woods. Most stage productions hide that part of the tale. It is fear of the darkness inherent in the stories that can cause playwrights to move too far in the other, more saccharine direction, leading to meaningless takes on fairy tales that now feel like the norm. When we remove fear from a fairy tale — or any story — we remove its connection to our lives, and that dumbing down affects theater audiences for a lifetime. Without true connections to our own feelings, fears and joys, why bother attending?

Read more at The Clyde Fitch Report

Read Part 1: Why do Theaters Dumb Down TYA (Theater for Young Audiences)?

Caleb Foote and Angela Giarratana in “Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass” (Photo: Cooper Bates)

Why Do Theaters Dumb Down TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences)?

“We want to do children’s theater that doesn’t suck.”

That was Debbie Devine and Jay McAdam’s answer when I asked how 24th ST Theatre’s shows were different from their local competition. I laughed and understood. I was just starting as their marketing director and not a parent myself, but I certainly knew the horror stories of wide-eyed “children’s theater” talking down to their audiences.

And so I set about convincing progressive Los Angeles parents that a show about death, or one with a scene about getting your period, or a one-woman King Lear, were exactly the shows they should bring their kids to see.

Read more on The Clyde Fitch Report.

This is the first column in a year-long series investigating Theatre for Young Audiences. Click the Talking TYA tag for more.

The Cat in the Hat and Consent

One of the reasons I love being a parent is getting to revisit children’s literature and discover the newest stories. Although I knew about Dr Seuss, I realized that I hadn’t actually read many of his books.

A good friend gave our son a Horton doll, so Horton Hears a Who was a natural starting place. What a wonderful message for children: a person’s a person no matter how small. Then The Lorax, quite a progressive environmental novel for the sixties. We were thrilled at how Dr. Seuss could affect our young son’s thinking about the world. For instance, when LPD [Little Pirate Dude – not his real name, unfortunately – editor] helps me put recycling in its bin, I tie it to The Lorax and our responsibility to the environment. Some of it sinks into his developing brain; more will click later. His young age doesn’t stop us from planting the seeds.

One day, I figured we should begin at the beginning and bought The Cat in the Hat. How exciting! I knew the character but nothing about his origin.

Well, I got quite a shock. The whole story raises serious red flags, in terms of consent, and reads like a manual for child molesters.

Read more at Dwarf+Giant

Graphic by @heatherwhooo

 

MINI MYTHS BOARD BOOKS FOR YOU(r Kids)

If you’re going to read the same book to your toddler fifty times in a row, make sure you don’t want to gouge your own eyes out in the process.

I’ve found quite a few books that my husband and I adore reading to our sons, many in thanks to my comic convention attending friends. The Mini Myths Board Books came to us, as so many wonderful enrichment does lately, through our local library.

Read more on Dwarf+Giant

Graphic by @heatherwhooo

 

Two Articles I Wrote on Art as a Parent

I guess being a parent really does affect how I view art. Yesterday two articles I wrote dropped on different publications, Better Lemons and Dwarf+Giant, a blog of The Last Bookstore LA. I didn’t realize until I shared them to Facebook that both show how I view art differently since becoming a parent.

One is how The Cat in the Hat reads like a manual for child molesters. I thought I’d get more pushback on this story, but so far all comments except one appreciate my argument for removing that book from your collection. Thanks to Dwarf+Giant for publishing this one!

The other is the first in a series, What Theaters Need to Know: Courting Families on Better Lemons, a relaunched Los Angeles arts website. Here I detail how small changes and larger ones can go a long way towards making families feel welcome at your programming. Until you’ve had to change your child’s diaper on a nasty restroom floor while other audience members bang on the door during intermission, you really haven’t lived as a parent.

Stay tuned for some more interesting articles from me……

Social Media Timing in the Age of Despair

I have words but they are jumbled

We’re in this vicious cycle now:

Tragedy

Outrage

Tears

Thoughts and Prayers

We need more than just thoughts and prayers

Think Pieces

Action items you can take

Reactions to Think Pieces

New Tragedy

Outrage

Rinse and repeat

 

After the Sandy Hook massacre, I created a social media policy for handling mass shootings in progress, tailoring it to each of my clients at that time.

It took me until Tamir Rice to create a policy for when an unarmed Black person is killed by police.

After Charlie Hebdo attacks, I adjusted the mass shootings policy to include terrorist attacks. Why that didn’t start earlier and why it mostly only focuses on attacks in the western world is a topic for another post.

What to do when we wake up each day to horrible news, or at the very least, weekly?

How to continue business on social media outlets when you need to acknowledge, or at least respect, but life also must continue?

How to let some light into the dark, either through happy photos, good news or commentary?

How to continue your work and your life without sounding like you are ignoring the devastating news of the day? Without sounding selfish, or privileged enough not to be confronted with the fear every minute, either because of where you live or the color of your skin?

I think about this a lot. It even makes me pause sometimes from posting the cycle of gun control, of Black Lives Matter, of how to raise a white child without white privilege: because in a matter of days, I can start to sprinkle more photos of my happy toddler or outreach advice or activism through art.

And then a new outrage will occur.

Rinse. Repeat.

It’s much too easy to ignore before the next horrendous headline enters my morning Facebook feed.

 

After the brutal month of June and early July 2016, I decided the only solution is to stop letting myself ignore it on days that it isn’t in my face. Many people fight these inequalities and face these horrors every day. I need to make the real effort to be more than an ally, and I need to make it every day. There are times for self-care, but I cannot retreat into it. I need to not only post “What You Can Do” articles, but hold myself accountable and post when I actually do make those calls to Congress and inquire/fight for proper police procedure. Feeling jumbled, as in my July 8 Facebook post, is not enough. I also greatly respect those who are not as public with their feelings or actions. Silence is complicity, certainly, but just because I don’t see you touting your feelings or actions on social media doesn’t mean you aren’t doing the work in real life. Posting something just so you are seen as aware often makes it sound trite, no matter how genuine the feelings behind it. I worried about that with every other post that ran through my brain on July 8th, and so just focused on my exact feelings at that exact time. I still worry it could sound trite, but at least I know it was the truth and not me trying to make something more out of the truth that I felt at that moment.

Now this is only for my personal social media platforms. What about brands, entrepreneurs, businesses? There are ways to mirror mission with current events for nonprofits, but others? Right now,I just take it case by case. In much of my work, I ghost write social media posts for people, and I take my cues from their personal pages, or send that all too familiar email:

“In light of recent events, I would like to post something along these lines:” and then I say something relatively simple without making any real statement: the brand version of “Thoughts and prayers”. For a local Orlando business, I barely even mentioned the actual massacre, but focused on the helpers in Orlando and particularly helping Orlando businesses.

I take it day by day, adjusting social media protocols as necessary but mostly winging it, collaborating when I have a team. Sometimes it is best just to stay silent. You don’t want to feel like you’re trying to draw attention to your brand through tragedies, even if it is to express sympathy. Yet, with these events happening so often (or at least our awareness of them amplified by access to media), how can you stay silent?

There are no real answers, just conscience and judgement and the ability to feel ignorant and ask questions of those more knowledgeable more I.

How do you handle your personal social media and business accounts lately?

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