Why Theatre for the Very Young?

A youngster watches a show intently at NextStop Theatre in Herndon, Virginia. (Photo by Matt Rose Photography.)

A youngster watches a show intently at NextStop Theatre in Herndon, Virginia. (Photo by Matt Rose Photography.)

By Kathy Ridenhour, Guest Mom-Blogger

Joy. Story. Connection.

Theatre for the Very Young”, a genre of theatre that has been common in Europe and Australia for more than 25 years, is coming to Herndon at NextStop Theatre!  In the new production Balloonacy, kids aged 1 to 5 become an essential part of telling the story and are fully engaged throughout the show by professional adult actors on stage.

A great introduction to live theatre, Balloonacy will be showing at NextStop on Saturdays and Sundays mornings at 10am, September 17 through October 9.

For most children, the journey into imagination begins with books and with play.  Live theatre can be a great next step in growing your child’s imagination. In his article Theatre – the true key stage, author Phillip Pullman talks about the magical experience of theatre:

Theatre “leave(s) room for the audience to fill in the gaps… The very limitations of theatre allow the audience to share in the acting… (and) the result of this imaginative joining-in is that the story becomes much more real, in a strange way. It belongs to everyone, instead of only to the performers under the lights. The audience in the dark are makers, too.”

Phillip Pullman

In theatre, our children will have the experience of living inside a story with those others around them—a strong, living connection. Story is one of the most effective ways in which we enter the lives of others, and in nowhere but live theatre do we see and hear so clearly their voices, feel so strongly their feelings, and in turn recognize our selves.

Engaged in the performing arts after an early introduction: Guest Mom-Blogger Kathy Ridenhour's daughter, Ivy, performing as Sally in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at NextStop

Engaged in the performing arts after an early introduction: Guest Mom-Blogger Kathy Ridenhour’s daughter, Ivy, performing as Sally in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at NextStop

For my children, a relationship with theatre began many years ago with a production of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. From that moment forward, it has been one of my great joys to watch my children as they react and respond to the actors, the music, the sets and the other audience members. I am reminded with each performance that I am seeing their minds and hearts grow in real time, that a distillation of what they are, what they believe and their capacity for joy is right in front of my eyes. And that is what theatre is all about, after all: shared joy. 

You can read the rest of Phillip Pullman’s article onlinecourtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.


Kathy Ridenhour is a writer who works for a local non-profit organization for other writers. In addition to raising two endearing, drama- and anime-mad children, she enjoys volunteering with NextStop, reading and writing fantasy and going on a very occasional jaunt to the local karaoke joint.


Learn more about “Balloonacy” for Ages 1 and Up at NextStop