Controversy Thursday: KIDS AT THE THEATER

23 Dec

[Note: It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and I’m exhausted.  Seabass is cranky and Mom is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, counting the nanoseconds until Daddy comes home for a long holiday break from the office.  All that to say Controversy Wednesday needed an extra day to formulate.  Merry Christmas!]

I was looking for a photo of some unhappy child at The Nutcracker, but Google knew to give me this instead. Because it's hilarious.

It’s that special time of year when lights are a-twinklin’, bells are a-jinglin’, and small children are strong-armed into bow ties, patent leather, and velvet for performances of The Nutcracker Suite, Handel’s Messiah, and various and sundry church services. 

Actually, I was one of those precocious little girls who LOVED dressing up and sitting still (mostly) for a Christmas performance.  I have so many fond memories of donning a stickie-outtie dress (my own term), and driving down to Santa Barbara with my mom and brother to meet my grandma for The Nutcracker ballet at the Arlington Theatre.  It was an annual tradition – complete with full, live orchestra – to which I give partial credit for my lifelong love of classical music.  (Thank you Mom and Nanny.)

My brother Dusty, however, was not fooled by the weak seduction of a cannon shot, a life-sized dancing rat king, or a far-too-short battle sequence.  In fact, I’m not even sure he noticed any of that.  He was too preoccupied with the fact that guys were wearing tights.  And dancing.  And BULGING all over the place.

My mom loves to recount how Dusty would hold it together, for the most part, through the ballet’s first half.  At intermission, we’d grab a cookie at concessions, and try to get the wiggles out in preparation for the second half.  But as the curtain parted and the dancing began again, Dusty would slowly but surely disintegrate.  Despite her finely-tuned sense of propriety and regard for fellow audience members, Mom could not withstand my brother’s acute desire to roll in the aisle, bow tie hanging by a thread and hair shooting in all directions.  The worst moment every year, she claims, was when the Arabian dancers took the stage.  Whatever brittle interest Dusty had in the remainder of the ballet was, at that point, destroyed.  I mean, to a little boy, COULD THIS SONG BE ANY SLOWER?  OR MORE BORING?

My friend Andrea has a great story about her own younger brother and The Nutcracker Suite.  Apparently, Jordan was not much of a fan as a little boy, either.  He kept quiet – whether by force or of his own volition – through the entire ballet until the Pas de Deux at the end.  As the harpist plucked the opening notes and the two dancers began twirling, Jordan could take it no longer, exclaiming – OUT LOUD – “Aaw, not again!”

Now, here’s the thing.  I wholeheartedly intend to force The Nutcracker on Seabass (much to his father’s chagrin, I might add).  He will own a bow tie, patent leather shoes, and will, most likely, roll in the aisle during the Pas de Deux.  I feel like it’s a right of passage.

But I draw the line at dragging him along to Handel’s Messiah for a sing-along…at least until he’s old enough to read music.  And even then, it’s his call as to whether he wants to join me.  This might seem like a contradiction to the post I shared about my thoughts on music lessons a while back, but there’s a big difference between bringing a four-year-old to Walt Disney Concert Hall for a four-hour Baroque marathon (no joke – people do it) and bringing him to a Hallelujah chorus flash mob at Macy’s.  One is a novelty for music-lovers.  The other is thinly-veiled child abuse.  (Which reminds me.  When I worked at the San Luis Obispo Symphony, the unofficial motto of the education department was “Torturing children with classical music for five decades.”)

Enough outta me.  What do you think?  Do you bring (or plan to bring) your children to boring holiday cultural events?  How do they react?

9 Responses to “Controversy Thursday: KIDS AT THE THEATER”

  1. Megan December 23, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I was hoping for female circumcision or something. This hardly qualifies as controversy…All parents force it on the first one. They usually like it (at first) because of their inherent perfectionist tendencies. So they try it again with the second, who has none of the older siblings’ hangups; eventually the trips don’t happen every year, or even twice in a decade. Christmas keeps coming.

  2. Monica December 23, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I would love to take Hayden to the ballet, but won’t for two reasons. One, I’m selfish and want to enjoy it and not talk an 8-year-old off the ledge the entire time; and two, I just showed him the Pas de Troix from Le Corsair the other day and he fell on the floor giggling hysterically about “No Pants Man” who was wearing nude tights and bulging while he danced.

    I WILL, however, make him sit through my dance show in June, and he’ll like it if it kills me. But his stepfather will be in charge so it’s a win/win for me, right?

  3. Oma December 23, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    You knew I’d chime in here…yes, your brother would be fine through the battle and then slowly unravel. Unfortunately, MY favorite piece of music in the Nutcracker is the Pas de Deux, and D. would be pretty much DONE by then.
    I had the opportunity to take my granddaughter (D.’s little girl) to the Nutcracker a couple of years ago. When the Arabian dancers came out (in what looked like diapers – with BARE LEGS no less)she asked (rather loudly) “Why do those boys not have any pants on?”
    I loved every second of it – especially that part! Can’t wait to take Seabass…two against one Jake.

  4. Auntie K December 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    I think your cousin & I went to at least one of those with you all.

    And I believe his young acting career came to a screeching hault after he was cast as the Nutcracker in the local Montecito Ballet’s version called Nuevo Nutcracker. I remember a review- something about a ‘slightly wrinkled’ nutcracker. The same company asked him to play a prince that next spring but he refused to be in any more roles requiring the wearing of tights- wrinkled or not.

    Then it was on to other kinds of dancing shows like MC Hammer at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds.

    This year I took the grandaughters (ages 9 and 12) to the State Street Ballet Nutcracker at the beautiful remodled Granada Theatre this year. They loved getting dressed up, seeing all the other kids dressed up and loved the whole show.

    Maybe you could make a deal with Jake along the lines of perhaps if you had another child it might be a little girl which possibly could take some of the pressure off the requirement for his son’s annual ballet attendance?

  5. Auntie K December 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    pushed the send button too soon- sorry for the grammar & spelling errors, can’t find how to delete & repost- oh well you get the gist

  6. Carrie December 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    A few days ago I searched for “Christmas Crackers” and also found that picture of the nut cracker- hilarious!

    And yes, I’d love to take the kiddos to the theater- so long as we can afford it! It can get pretty pricey!

  7. Anonymous December 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Oh for the love of God it’s NOT “Torturing children with clasical music for five decades” It’s NO TORTURING SMALL CHILDREN WITH CLASSICAL MUSIC! I swear, I thought Boomers were over-achiving maniacs, but whatever your generation is (X? Y?) is equally nuts. The kid jumps up and down on your bladder in utero whenever they hear Beethoven so you’re sure they’ll just love getting into a straightjacket and sitting still for three hours. I can’t tell you how many parents I would see at the Symphony free dress rehearsals who basiclaly spent the whole rehearsal with “Shhh. Stop kicking the seat. Shhh. Stop kiicking the seat. Shhh. Stop kicking the seat.”

    AAARRRRGHHH. release the poor kid from their misery.
    Warning. Plug for the Symphony coming.

    Taking kids to the Symphony dress rehearsals in our town is free and terrific and I happen to know all kids are welcome- to get to know the orchestra, maybe see their teacher perform, see the spectacle of the Performing Arts Center and hear the music….FOR ABOUT 20 MINUTES- then it should be off to the park or an ice cream- maybe they’ll wanna’come back!

    • jaimeclewis December 23, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

      Um. We may have SAID that the motto was “No torutring small children with classical music” when you were listening, but we all know the real motto.

  8. Sandi Sigurdson December 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Sorry- didn’t mean to be anonymous- always happy to be the loudmouth fan of the blog!

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