Did you know that you and your family can attend free plays at the St. Louis Public Library? Every month, the Central Library hosts “Play Date Theater” where actors put on live performances designed for the whole family, but focused on the short attention span of young children. Play Date Theater is a great way to introduce children to the art of theater. Entertaining for older kids, but geared toward children preschool through Grade 2. This month’s Play Date Theater is called “An Outrageous Fit of Madness” and is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”
Why introduce theater at a young age? Watching a play is just the same as watching a movie, right? According to studies done by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, this is not true. There is another level of engagement that theater provides that TV and movies simply cannot. Their findings indicated that the students who attended the theater performance “had an increased understanding of the plot, increased vocabulary, greater tolerance, and improved ability to read the emotions of others.”
Now, you might be thinking that Shakespeare is simply too complicated for young viewers. It’s true that the antiquated speech, the mature themes, and the complex plots can be hard for a young a child to process. This is the very reason, however, that early exposure is beneficial. The earlier and more often a child is exposed to a concept or idea, the easier it will be to understand it later in life. If your child has seen children’s productions of Shakespeare’s works, or read adaptations, then by the time their high school English teacher assigns Romeo and Juliet, they will be ready for it. If a child has positive experiences with Shakespeare while they are young, they will have a better chance of enjoying a whole body of work that can otherwise seem daunting.
That’s why Play Date Theater is more than just a fun experience for the whole family. Attending a live theater production can open the door to literacy, increased vocabulary, and improved ability to read the emotions of others. And trust us, Play Date Theater’s “An Outrageous Fit of Madness” will be a ton of fun, and a perfect way for your little ones to meet William Shakespeare.
Want to continue the Shakespeare fun at home? Check out the following books and media:
This audio CD contains 2 of Shakespeare's beloved plays, "The Taming of the Shrew" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Both plays are shortened for the attention span of children, and read aloud by Jim Weiss. Great to listen to in the car!
This book contains a fun and accessible way to teach your kiddos Shakespeare.
Author E. Nesbit has retold Shakespeare's plays in short, fairy-tale-esque stories that are charming and easy to approach.
The beauty of this book is that it incorporates activities to connect Shakespeare to history, geography, science, art, music, movement, math, and language arts. Connecting our reading to our real lives enhances our understanding. This is a great way to help children get immersed in the works.
This book can be used for older or younger children alike.
For more info on “An Outrageous Fit of Madness,” and all the other Play Date Theaters coming up, click here.
For more information on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville’s study on the influence of theater, click here.