Play dates

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

There is a reason for my plea. It comes from a family outing to the Ohio Theatre four years ago to see the musical "Annie." Ian was 4 and I was convinced he was ready for an evening at the theater. We left during intermission because Ian's bedtime was fast approaching and his attention span rapidly declining. As far as Ian knows, poor Annie is still roaming the streets of New York.

Things could've turned out differently had we chosen a different production, say one aimed specifically at the preschool set.

"There are companies with productions that are geared to 3 and 4 year olds. They're short, so there's no need for intermission," advises Rolanda Copley, a spokeswoman for CAPA, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.

"You can build up your child's excitement for a production if it features one of their favorite characters," says Copley.

It's a process that starts with your child's initial enthusiasm over their favorite characters. You could dress up for the play or dress in costume as one of its characters.

And if you're seeing a production based on a TV character like Dora, Diego or The Backyardigans, you don't need to worry about the production's quality, says Copley: "The actors are Broadway-trained actors who engage the children with their skills."

For children who are challenged to contain their excitement, give them a chance to burn off a little energy before the show starts. Arrive early, walk around and take care of going to the bathroom to avoid climbing over other patrons later.

We are fortunate in Central Ohio to have options when it comes to introducing our children to the arts. One of them is the Phoenix Theatre for Children, with a new season featuring productions based on literary classics like "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Encyclopedia Brown."

I'm looking forward to another chance at giving Ian the "gift" of theater this holiday season, so we're going to see at least one of these shows. In my ongoing efforts to raise a reader, I love the opportunity to make a connection to a classic book. Plus I'm looking forward to the fact that now, at 8 years old, he'll make it through an entire show.

And I'm pretty sure he will be relieved to know that, in the end, things do work out for Annie.

Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.