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Post-its to Possibilities: A Day at the Theatre

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L-R: Sharon Lawrence, York Walker, Mae Whitman and David Pittu in “The Mystery of Love & Sex” at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. Written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Robert Egan, “The Mystery of Love & Sex” plays February 10 – March 20, 2016, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772. .Contact: CTG Media and Communications/ (213) 972-7376/CTGMedia@ctgla.org.Photo by Craig Schwartz.

All Uses © 2016 Craig Schwartz

When you welcome over 1,500 fourth and fifth grade students to the Ahmanson Theatre with the promise of magic, you know it is going to be a good day. From the sparkling on the plaza floor, to the sparkle in their eyes, the true magic of the theatre was ever present at our Young Audiences Program student matinee performance of Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Each year, CTG brings thousands of students to select main-stage performances. A trip to our theatres starts with a conference for educators to discover the production and ways to bring it to life and connect with their curriculum. These professionals receive rich educational resources, including a Discovery Guide and Educator Resources, for them and their students. On the day of the matinee, students enjoy a full length matinee and post-show discussion with artists from the show. Some schools even got a visit from a CTG teaching artist and were able to dive into the themes of the play before attending!

As the students arrived at the theatre, they were greeted by CTG staff and volunteers, and escorted to lines outside the theatre. You could see all of the anticipation bubbling in each child as they stood in line. As they waited, we wanted them to have some fun, and begin to immerse themselves into the show. The concept was simple, have the students write an answer to the prompt, “If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?” The range of wishes encompassed everything: new updates for Mine Craft, to stop hunger, to be able to fly, and to end all violence and crime. The little stars held more than wishes, they held hope for the future. These fourth and fifth graders knew what had to be changed, and they had the promise of magic motivating them to write it down on their little post-it star. Saving endangered species, or saving their parents from smoking, the stars proved that these young children could see the issues in the world. 

Once inside the theatre, everything was buzzing. I was sitting in the back of the mezzanine when a little boy turned to me and asked, “Does the stage change?” For someone who has been going to the theatre his entire life, I thought the answer was obvious—“of course it does!” Then I realized, from the hands being raised, that most of the kids in the audience had never been to a professional theatre production before. 

Comments overheard throughout the production included the range from wonder: “Is that really her voice?” To problem solving: “I already know how the dress changes. The Fairy Godmother cast a spell on it and had the fireplace shoot out the pretty dress. I saw it.” Then personalization: “I would hate to live in that house; you can only see half of it.”

There was almost constant laughter, conversing, cheering, and even some sorrow as the students watched this Cinderella story. With all of the great things that the kids had to say, there was one comment that was better than all of the rest: “Can we see it again?!”

This experience taught me that if we are going to do the impossible, we cannot be worried about whether we think something can or cannot be done. In the words of the Fairy Godmother, “Impossible things are happening every day.”  After seeing these kids, I know that nothing is impossible with a little help and a lot of kindness.

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