Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Performance Play Spaces

This Thursday (March 5), “There's Something Under My Bed” opens on the Playhouse stage!

And that’s the perfect time to share my recent interview with Please Touch Museum’s Theater Experience Manager and Playhouse performer, David Hutchman, who told me all about why the performing arts are important to young children and what goes into creating shows for the Please Touch stage. Plus, I got the scoop on how to make a fun performance space in your own home!

Pinky: What opportunities do the performing arts offer young children?

David: The performing arts are a great way for kids to learn and grow, all while having fun. The performing arts foster imagination, creativity, self-expression, and self-confidence. Even with space restrictions, there are simple ways to make room for performance play.

Pinky: So what’s the goal of performance play?

David: The goal of performance play is not to train children to be dancers, actors or musicians. Instead, focus on creating an atmosphere for your child to explore the performing arts.

Pinky: What goes into the theater productions at Please Touch Playhouse?

David: The idea for a new show can come from any number of places. A show can be based on an exhibit in the museum (e.g. “The Building Show”)), it can be from a book, (e.g. “North Wind” from the book At The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald) or it might even be a topic that our Education Director thinks is really important to the kids (e.g. “Eat Like A Pirate”—a healthy food choice show.)

Wherever the idea comes from, you always have to remember that all our shows, except “Scat Cat” are solo performer shows. So, as you’re thinking up the new show you have to figure a way for one person to do all the puppets and voices and storytelling and everything all by themselves.

Pinky: So let’s take the theater experience home! How can parents set the stage for their child?

David: Creating a performance space in the comfort of your own home is easy! Pull the sofa away from the wall to make a puppet stage. A porch can be a stage, or simply create a stage using masking tape or a chalk line on a sidewalk. Decorate an old sheet and hang it on the wall as a backdrop, or hang a colorful shower curtain on the basement pipes to serve as a curtain. To create ambiance, have music available. Put a black light or colored bulbs in the fixtures, or use a flashlight as a spotlight. Just remember to make sure furniture corners, electric cords and other hazards are out of the way.

Pinky: How about props?

David: Tambourines and shakers are great instruments for little hands. Find some toy instruments or make a small flat cardboard guitar for your child to decorate and “play”. Use a soup spoon as a microphone, and make a drum set out of pots and pans or Tupperware. Make puppets from socks or poster board shapes taped to a handle. Generally speaking, encourage substitution — a plastic bowl can be a hat; a skirt can be a cape.

Pinky: Now that the stage and props are ready, it’s time to get the show started!

David: That’s right! Once the space and props are ready, most kids will dive right in. If your child isn’t sure where to start, provide a few suggestions based on her interests. For example, the child could: make up a dance to music, put on a rock concert, act out a folk tale, family event, or a sports victory, tell jokes, or sing songs. Allow your child time to play solo, or participate as a willing actor or member of the band. Encourage siblings and playmates to take turns as the director or the “star.”

Have fun and break a leg! (figuratively, of course)

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We're all about learning through play.

Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.