Saturday, December 5, 2015

Child's Play: You Birthed Them, Now Make Theater Lovers Out of Them

Alexandra Suarez as a young little Gloria Estefan in "On Your Feet!" Photo by Matthew Murphy.

HEADS UP: We know, it seems like only six months ago that ‘twas the season to be jolly. How is it that every year you have no idea what in the world to get those on your list?! Never fear, the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN are, of course, on the case. Up until 24 Dec., we will introduce at least one or a series of products, items and brands that we believe is worthy of consideration as a holiday gift(s). Also look for at least one article dedicated to stocking stuffers and at least one highlighting themed gifts. Could be theater. Or food&drink. Fashion, maybe? You’ll just have to stay tuned and read all about it. Happy, responsible shopping!


the joys of theater is the way it helps expand our horizons and allows us to see things from another's point of view. In some cases, it allows us to see things from several POVs.

In many ways, theater fosters compassion and empathy. That's probably why you want to let your kids in on the experience.

Whether you wish to transform your youngster into a theater-goer or are just looking forward to the day when s/he can sit still for at least 45 minutes, you might need to give them an early start.

Following is a humble guide to what it may – and may not – require to prepare your children in stages for a lifetime of theater pleasure.

Start off with productions that are simple enough or familiar enough that they won’t present too much of a challenge. There's always a lot of action on stage. To that end, let children know what to expect. Outline the plot, just a little, but avoid spoilers. They should not be mystified by all the magic. The theater is a place for discovery. And sometimes a little silliness, as well.

Make it a festive occasion. Let the child(ren) pick a favorite outfit to wear.

Also set some ground rules about how we behave when we're an audience. Promise an extra treat after the show to the best behaved of your clan (Yes, a little bribery can go a long way in making the first adventure in a theater a great one.)

Do consider Symphony Space. The performing arts center offers a Just Kidding Saturdays series of theater, song and dance for the very young crowd year-round. On 19 Dec. (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), take the kids to see A Puppet Musical: Lollipops for Break-fast. Find out what ensues when Sylvie and her pet bird venture out in search of the perfect ingredients to make a lollipop from scratch. Show creator Bonnie Duncan presents the continuing adventures of Sylvie, set to live original music by Brendan Burns and Tony Leva.

If the youngsters enjoy that show, they can return to Symphony Space on 2 Jan. 2016 (11 a.m.) for "A Bilingual New Year with Sonia De Los Santos with special guest Dan Zanes!" At her first Symphony Space show, NYC-based, Mexican-born artist Sonia De Los Santos celebrates her first solo family music album, “Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island.” This joyous sing-along show is a great way to both start the new year and cross some cultural bridges.

Pedal Punk "mechanics" at The New Victory Theater. Photo by Zach Mahone.

For the 5-year old and his older sibs, consider The New Victory Theater as the "gateway" to their future as audience. They are sure to enjoy these shorter, splashy productions. With 20 years of bringing shows to families and encouraging a love of theater in the young, The New Victory bills itself as New York City’s premier performing arts venue devoted to kids and families. It presents spectacles that feature puppets, opera, music, dance and theater.

Pedal Punk, playing from 4 Dec. – 3 Jan. 2016, is a bit of a cirque style show for the 5 and up crowd presented by the Cirque Mechanics Company. All the productions in this very beautiful theater will keep everyone – even the grandparents – entertained. In fact, this writer and the hubs have attended some of The New Victory’s shows just for the fun of it. As an added incentive, The New Victory offers gently priced entertainments. (

Indeed, a family outing to a Broadway or off-Broadway show can cost a pretty penny. To that end, avail yourself of deals. Visit a Theatre Development Fund TKTS Discount Booth, which offers same-day tickets for up to 50 percent off regular prices. Also investigate discount options on sites like, and For the best deals, print out coupons from the sites and use them when buying tickets at the box office. (

Perhaps discounts can be had on a current production that will hold interest for children. On stage now are “The Lion King,” “Aladdin, “Matilda,” “The King and I” and “On Your Feet!

The latter production is based on the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan's rise to disco fame. The musical features the work of an amazing child actor, Eduardo Hernandez, who tap dances like the pro he is. Meanwhile, Alexandria Suarez lends her beautiful voice in playing Gloria as a little girl. (

Kelli O'Hara (center) as Anna with children of the court, performing "Getting to Know You" in "the King and I. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

That brings to mind another key component of the musical or play that your child is most likely to en-joy: there are child actors in the production. Children can envision themselves in the play. “The King and I” may be a bit sophisticated, but for the older and more mature of your brood, it's also a good big-ticket choice. (

The story of the making of the musical, while interesting, does not begin to do justice to what Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein created from it. “The King and I” soars with humanity. Playing through 3 Jan. 2016 at Lincoln Center's Vivien Beaumont Theater, it will hold your attention. Prepare the kiddies for this one by viewing the classic movie. (

Enjoy the shows!

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