Monday, December 28, 2009

A Rather Young Theatre Audience - New Musing on

A Rather Young Theatre Audience - New Musing on

In the interest of  furthering my daughter’s education, I take her for a play or a performance now and then. In order to make the outing more enjoyable for her, I invite one or two (greater numbers are daunting) of her friends along. I also have a son, whom, I believe, is still a bit young for this. [My impression stems from the few performances I took him to. The most recent was a magic show where he totally ignored the stage and its occupants, and would keep running down the aisle and “disappearing”(admittedly keeping the true spirit of the event in mind!) outside the auditorium.I too had to keep following him out: and the mother and son remained involved in their own private appear/reappear act throughout the show. Others later told us it was a splendid performance (the main show)]

The idea of the outing generates considerable excitement in the chidren’s minds. They chatter non-stop on the way to the event and carefully select their seats at the venue (loudly discussing the merits and demerits of each vantage position). Once comfortable, they send the accompanying adult (me)out to buy them popcorn and drinks. Their excitement cannot be contained when the curtain goes up.The debuting performers are greeted with delighted squeals  expressing loud and fervent anticipation. I try to pretend that I am just coincidentally sitting near these kids and am not their direct incharge.
Then the actual performance begins. Sometimes they are riveted (thankfully!) and silent.  Most often, loud questions begin to take shape.  These are hurriedly tackled in mid sentence by me with the advice to whisper instead. They then (obediently!) clarify the rest of their doubts in loud stage whispers.In my panic to ensure that the volumes remain acceptably low, my answers are delivered quickly and crisply. Unfortunately their satisfaction thresholds are high and short answers generate more questions. Difficult circle of curiosity!

 A moot point during the performance is how much time is spent actually watching the show and how much in the bathroom. The moment a scene heads towards  a sort of climax, their little bladders start acting up (side effects of excitement) and we have to make a trip to the restroom. There we have a full performance and games instead of quick execution of the job. There are playful attempts to peep at one another from under the cut off door, comments on shoes, legs, the desire to see how the soap flows out of the tap on pumping etc.[ I remember a kindly old lady who was watching the antics of the kids with a bemused expression. A little while later, on her second trip to the restroom, she encountered us again. Oh you all are still here? she asked  sweetly. No madam, this is my fifth trip here with them I answered wearily.She seemed a little nonplussed].

I once advised these little mites that their repeated trips through the rows disturb others and so they must walk fast when walking through the rows and preferably, bend down . My daughter took this literally and imagine my consternation when she went down on all fours and started crawling among the rows.Her friends quickly followed suit and it was a rather embarrassing few minutes when I had to also go down on all fours(to draw less attention to myself) and persuade them to stand up! They told me they were trying to be ultra-considerate !

The hours fly by and the time of the performance draws to a close. By this time the children begin getting a bit restless (even in a lovely show they have enjoyed) and the fidgeting starts. There is near continuous movement on my lap and I  have to keep tilting my head a little this way and that to see better. Without turning back, in my mind , I can visualize the domino effect and tilting of heads (accompanied by curses?) down the entire row behind me.

Finally the (sigh of relief for me) show is over ! The performers come to take a bow . The kids love clapping and put their vigorous energies into it. It encourages the artistes and makes up for the little distractions in between ! The kids are only too willing to exchange their cramped up position for a standing one and so a standing ovation from them follows. ( I like to think it makes up for everything)

Though some of these experiences can be harrowing for me, I like to remain optimistic.With the passing months, the children get older, wiser, more appreciative of performances and seem to have better control of their bladders!
Guest Post by  Dr. Anjali Mehta

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