By Sue Rodman and Miranda Haley
Beauty and the Beast is really a very dark show. I mean, it actually has a lot of scenes in the dark. I didn’t realize this until I took my then four year old to the show. I wanted him to love theatre and figured what better way to introduce him to the stage than a fun Disney production with dancing dishes and magical candelabras. Except that the dark was scary. And the Beast was scary. And I must have heard a thousand times “Mommy, is the Beast gonna come out dare? as he pointed to the balconies at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. (Lucky for me there is a balcony on both sides of the theatre.) At one point he was under the seat.
A good mom would have taken him out, realizing it was all too much. However this mom had paid more than $50 a ticket and invited his aunt and grandmother to the show as Christmas presents. So we stayed. And he got through it, and has some fodder for his therapist in later life.
Theatre for the Very Young in Atlanta
As you can see from my experience, Broadway productions can be a bit long and sometimes, even scary for young children. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until they are older to introduce them to theatre. Field Trips with Sue corespondent Miranda Haley has taken her daughter to several productions geared toward younger children. Here are four places to enjoy theatre for the very young in Atlanta.
Aurora Theatre Children’s Playhouse
128 East Pike St., Lawrenceville, GA 30046
Just 45 minutes outside Atlanta, Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre troop offers the Children’s Playhouse series on Saturday mornings. The offerings change weekly and will target different audiences so choose appropriately for your child. Aurora presents plays, magic shows, puppet shows, musicals, fun science demonstrations and stories with children’s authors. I love the variety and quality of the shows Aurora produces. Plus you just cannot beat the price! Tickets are $7.00/person or if you will be attending frequently you can purchase the 10 show punch card for $50.00 – that’s a $20.00 savings! The theatre is conveniently located on the historic downtown square and is easy to find. There is plenty of parking, a very short walk into the theatre and you are in easy walking distance of wonderful restaurants and shopping on the square for after the play. If the kids need to run off some energy before or after their production, you are right by the courthouse which has lots of shady green space. The theatre is used to hosting children so the concession stand will be stocked with juices and kid-friendly snacks on Saturdays. The bathrooms are large and very clean and the theater is arranged with lots of aisle seats so parents of little ones can scoot out if the need should arise. These productions are wildly popular and seating is first-come and productions do often sell out so pre-purchase tickets and arrive early.
The Alliance’s Theatre For The Very Young
Black Box Theater, 3rd Floor, Woodruff Memorial Arts Building, 1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
One of our favorites is the Alliance Theatre’s small troop, Theatre For The Very Young. These productions are perfect for 1 year olds (I think we fudged and went the first time at 8 months) all the way through to 5 or 6 year olds. These are great option for moms with babies and children of varying ages; there will something there for everyone to enjoy. The productions change often and explore music and gentle clowning. The actors and staff are all professionals and I promise you will be impressed with the quality of the production. They are all held in the small Black Box Theater of the Woodruff Building so audience sizes are limited. This makes the tickets a little more expensive and you have to purchase early to get in, but it’s worth it. The small space and audience is much more conducive to little ones and first time theatre-goers. Arrive early so that your child can participate in all the per-play activities. Every minute aspect is geared to making a child’s theatre experience interactive and engaging. Upon arrival each child will get their own ticket and be shown to a room where there will be a craft project and coloring pages. When it is time to go in they ride the “choo-choo” as they walk in line to the theatre and hand over their tickets. I also love how the seating is on risers so some wiggling and slinking around is really ok. Don’t worry parents – there are real seats for us! Unlike regular theatre adults are used to, this type of production is constantly looking for interaction from the audience so you don’t have to worry if you have a wiggle-worm or one who likes to call out the answers. When attending a play here just keep in mind that your in the Woodruff Building and it is uuutypically an adult venue. There will be a little walking from the car to the theatre room and you will not have access to a changing table, but we have always managed to make do with no problems.
Horizon Theatre Family Series
1083 Austin Ave., Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 30307
The Horizon Theatre also offers a family series. Their productions also range widely so choose with discretion. This location can be difficult to find if you are unfamiliar with the area, but the directions on the website are good and GPS took us right to it. They have just a few children’s productions each year, but where they lack in quantity they certainly make up for in exceptional quality. I am still raving about Madeline’s Christmas to our friends and play groups. Again this is usually an adult venue so you will have small bathrooms and no changing facility, but we worked it out just fine. When we attended Madeline the theatre provided local baked cookies and hot drinks at the concession stand and sold Madeline dolls, books and magic wands. The theater is small and it will sell out and fill up very quickly. Buy your tickets in advance and arrive extra early if you need one of the few aisle seats with an easy escape route.
Theatre for the Very Young Center for Puppetry Arts
1404 Spring Street, NW at 18th, Atlanta, GA 30309-2820
The Center for Puppetry Arts offers puppet shows for the entire family, including it’s youngest members. Puppet shows were one of my youngest son’s favorites. We love the Create a Puppet workshop that comes with every show. Not only is it fun to make a craft (outside my house) but my boys always came home and did their own puppet shows later on in the day.
For more information on things to do with the preschool set, visit our post on What to do with Preschoolers in Atlanta.