How a Young Family Prepares for the Theatre

A night of theater is a simple formula: dinner, theater, maybe coffee and dessert later over a lengthy chat about the interesting points of the show. It’s an exciting yet relaxing change from the norm, perfect for recharging and enlivening playgoers.

For some audience members, the evening is more of a process, though. Far more effort is put into the enjoyment of a night of theater, and that variation from the norm is sharper for several reasons.

Take a recent example right out of my planner. There was a time that a date night of theater meant next to no planning, and occurred about once every month or two. My husband and I would meet up after work, grab a lovely dinner beforehand (he never made reservations), and off to the theater we went. Intermission and after-show coffee would bring about chats of personal connections with themes and characters, comparisons to other shows, and analyses of whether we could get away with such a show at our own community theater group. We’d leisurely head home and keep chatting, still buzzing on caffeine and inspiration.

Fast-forward to now. Theater experiences are few and far between since our son came along. When we do take in a show, we weigh heavily which show is worth our time and effort, sifting through every local theater’s season options. We hardly ever select a repeat show anymore, whereas we used to enjoy comparing the variations between different productions. We definitely take less risks, mostly because our free time has become a more precious commodity.

After selecting (weeks or months in advance) the show that we’re interested in, we analyze the best babysitting option and exactly how the evening will go. We plan, discuss, organize, and plan some more. From the fastest route to the closest restaurant to the exact minute we need to leave to find a prime parking spot, it’s almost laughable.

Once inside the theater, though, we’re home. Joining the din of the crowd, we enjoy the laughter, gasps, and boisterous applause that accompany live theater. We read our programs voraciously, socialize unexpectedly with old friends in the aisle, and share knowing smirks when the audience reacts conservatively to a bawdy joke. We leave on bouncing feet, reenergized with the same old feeling. Only, this time, we rush off to relieve the babysitter and drag an over-tired toddler home. We all pass out and feel exhausted for days, calling it a totally worth it “theater hangover.”

We know that, one day, we’ll miss these days of childhood innocence, so we don’t wish them away. However, we find encouragement in the fact that we’ll be bringing up our son in a theater-loving family and will be able to share theater-going experiences together as he grows up. Before we know it, our house will be sadly empty and we’ll have the luxury to frequent more and more productions like the old days. It brings me to wonder if any of our over-planning practices will spill into those calmer, quieter times.