Be Dramatic! Introducing Kids to Theater

We moms aren’t usually looking to add more drama to our lives, but comedy and music? Yes, please! So why not add some theater to your activity list? Yes, I’m talking taking kids to a theater that doesn’t include a cartoon running on a big movie screen. I hear you: kids are too noisy; they won’t be interested; other theater-goers will hate us. Take a breath. I promise: they can handle it. And so can you.

I speak from experience. My mom actually took me to see Shakespeare. (Yes, that Shakespeare.) I can still remember how grown-up I felt, watching what seemed like a fairy tale unfold in front of me: the costumes, the stage, the actors of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and more. The language mesmerized me. I remember how giddy I was when the actors autographed my program. And I loved that my mother thought I was big enough to go to the theater.

Then my grandmother took us to see Peter Pan and Annie. Once again, I was mesmerized. It was magical. And I grew into an adult who cheers, applauds, and supports theater.

At the Empire to enjoy The Jungle Book. And nope, he was NOT into pictures that day, but he loved the show.

Now I get to share my love of the stage with my son. San Antonio makes it easy to do that, as our city is home to fantastic theaters and production companies. I dare you to not gasp the first time you see the Majestic, whose amazing, atmospheric setting takes you away before the curtain even goes up. Its sister theater, the Empire, is more than 100 years old and just as grand, with more than six pounds of gold-leaf embellishing its interior. Then there’s the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts: modern, grand, and lovely.

Going on adventures with the coolest creatures—and the Wild Kratts—at the Tobin.

All three theater calendars feature shows specifically for children, hosting tours such as Octonauts Live!, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!, Bubble Guppies Live!, Wild Kratts Live!, and more. Are those touring shows pulled from television favorites yet another way to part parents from their money? Of course. But they’re also a way for your child to see the characters they love come to life. Think of them as mini-plays, definitely age appropriate, and a fun way to introduce them to live shows. And seeing your wide-eyed kiddo clap with glee when his/her favorite characters come to life? Sure, take my money! Seeing that joy is more than worth it.

Ignore the less-than-thrilled look and just marvel at the beauty of the Majestic box office outside the theater.

But don’t stop there. What about Broadway? Don’t scoff. The Majestic hosts Broadway in San Antonio, and the seasons often include child-friendly options, like Cinderella. The 2018–2019 season includes perennial favorite Wicked, as well as School of Rock. (And that little phenomenon known as Hamilton, which may be one of the hardest tickets to score in San Antonio this next year.) There are matinee performances, and children are welcome. Know that these shows are longer than ones designed for children and may be best for slightly older children versus true littles.

One of the fun props in Magik’s lobby. And see, he does smile for pictures!

Of course, you can always let the “Magik” of theater grab your child’s imagination—as in the Magik Theatre, a true gem that has been nurturing a love of theater in San Antonio children for 24 years. Magik brings books to life, stages original productions, offers sensory-friendly performances and even options for very young theater fans, programming for kids ages zero to five. Through April 7th, you can sit back and enjoy Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, based on the beloved Knuffle Bunny book by Mo Willems. I won’t apologize for my son’s REALLY loud giggling at the show: he blended right in with the rest of the kids laughing at a huge pair of boxers shorts dancing across the stage (don’t ask, just go—you’ll love it!).

Magik will be presenting Disney’s Aladdin as a dual-language production this spring, featuring “El Charro de Oro” Sebastien de la Cruz in the lead role. Known for his appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” as well as signing the National Anthem during the 2013 NBA Finals, de la Cruz has a devoted following thanks to his fantastic talent and amazing poise and maturity when he was the target of racist slurs following that performance. You can also enjoy Madagascar as a musical this summer, so mark your calendar and be sure to “move it, move it” to see the show. By the way, a visit to Magik can easily include a stop at Yanaguana Garden to enjoy its amazing playground, so a matinee performance becomes a full outing, especially since there are a growing number of spots to grab a bite around Hemisfair.

Magik Theatre also offers shows for older kids, including A Wrinkle in Time this May. Hot on the heels of the movie, this production will bring the beloved 1962 book to life on stage. The theater recommends the show for those 10 and up (the ideal age to fall in love with the book, too), so middle and high school kids can also enjoy some theater “Magik.”

Young and old alike can enjoy Woodlawn Theatre’s upcoming productions of The Wizard of Oz and Annie this season. After my son saw Annie in Performing Arts class, he fell in love, so it’s a must on our fall calendar. There’s also their Junior Productions, designed to help nurture a love of theater in children. The shows feature local kids who work for 10 weeks to ultimately present a full-fledged production complete with all the theatrics you would expect from a Broadway show.

You may know The Public Theater as The Playhouse San Antonio or the San Pedro Playhouse. The name has changed, but the quality of the productions hasn’t. The Public Theater’s 2018–2019 season includes Newsies and Matilda, both kid-friendly shows sure to please, and bonus: you can also watch all of these stories as movies, and then see the plays, with your kiddos. And Matilda, of course, is also a book, so there’s an opportunity to read along with your kids as well.

I can’t talk about theater in San Antonio without sharing my love of Las Casas Foundation. My love of Las Casas runs deep: it is the nonprofit that restored the Majestic and Empire Theatres, saving them for all of us to enjoy, and it gives more than $100,000 in performing arts scholarships to deserving high school students annually. Performing arts scholarships are a rarity, so having this program right here in our backyard, supporting the talent of local teens who dream of a life in the theater, is true gift for San Antonio. Here’s an overview of their scholarship program (already closed for 2018), but if you’d like to see this year’s scholarship competitors—and be amazed by the depth of talent these teens have—be sure to check out the Joci Awards this May.

Hope to see you and your kids enjoying a production soon!

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food