The South Dallas Cultural Center is a fairly small theater that, depending on the event, seats probably around 100-200 people (Don't quote me on that...spacial estimations were never my strong point!). Every seat allows great access to a good view and close proximity to the stage. I saw that their Soul Children's Theater would be performing Tales of the Mouse this weekend--a great opportunity to take children with me.
Niesha (9) and Tatiana (6) were chosen to go from the After-School Academy. As we drove to the play, I asked them if they'd ever been to a play before. "No," both responded. I asked what they thought a play was. (Tatiana explained a play was what you did when you go to the park. :) )
At the beginning of the play, Mr. Harold (the director) informed the audience there would be audience participation and everyone needed to help. He then immediately asked for volunteers. I was surprised when Niesha raised her hand (albeit a little hesitantly) on the very first opportunity. Mr. Harold called Niesha and another child to the stage to lead the audience in a call and response exchange.
Once she sat down and the play started, Niesha settled in. She never fell asleep, but she was leaned over and somewhat curled up in the chair. Though she didn't look bored, she wasn't on the edge of her seat either.
Toward the end of the play, they asked for volunteers again. This time Niesha was quick to raise her hand and become a part of the interactive play. She was asked to engage in a tug-of-war on Elephant's side as he pulled against Hippopotamus. I was happy that she felt comfortable enough to engage with the actors on stage. However, I must admit my total surprise and elation with what happened after the play.
After the curtain call, actors allowed the audience to take pictures and hold some of the props (like the spear and mask). As Niesha held the spear and after the picture was snapped, she transformed into the role. She began creeping along the side of the stage...just as they did in the play. She started repeating the lines verbatim. I laughed and told Mr. Harold I think he had just lost his role in the play.
A few other kids joined in, including Niesha's sister and some of the actors from the play. Niesha began directing people (including the actors!) to, "Stand here," "You're supposed to move like this," "You say this when you walk," "You're supposed to run that direction!" I had laugh. Not only was she repeating the play and the actors movements word-for-word, she had begun directing the director!
Never underestimate what new experiences can inspire in a child...and never underestimate what a child takes in when you least expect it.