Monday, February 28, 2011

But IS a Play a Thing?



At four, David saw a musical stage version of Anne of Green Gables. When the character named Matthew died, David, sitting in my lap at that point, whispered, "Is he really dead?"

"No," I whispered back. "It's just a play-- pretend."

"Are they real people?" he asked.

I had no idea how to answer that question.

We talked about the nature of theater and acting in the car on the way home, but I wasn't sure he got it, so two days later we went to see Wind in the Willows on stage. David asked me if the animal costumes were real.

I wasn't sure what he was asking.


So we talked more about theater and acting and costumes, about the differences between television and stage, and the differences between cartoons and live-action. David turned five, and over the following months we made costumes and acted out scenes at home as part of his schoolwork, to help him learn about famous moments in history and about theater simultaneously. I figured he got it.


But then we went to a living history museum, and when one of the actors asked David how he got there and he said, "in a car," she said, "in a cart?"

"In a car," he said.

"In a cart?"

"In a CAR."

We kept telling him that she was an actress playing a role of a woman in 1790, so she couldn't know what a car was, but he was so convinced that he could get through to her, we had to literally drag him off. In the car we started talking about the varied nature of theater.

When he was six and seven, we took him to see Shari Lewis and Lambchop on stage, and to Fiddler on the Roof, to Horn in the West, and other plays. He went backstage and got Ms Lewis' autograph, he got a Lambchop doll for his birthday, he started watching the Zero Mostel Fiddler on video incessantly, he laughed and grew sad at all the appropriate spots in Horn in the West, and he recognized someone he knew playing a role on the stage at a local play. I figured he finally had the concept of theater down pat.

Then we went to see Arsenic and Old Lace. It's a dark comedy, but David was eight years old by then, and he had watched our copy of the Cary Grant version on video many times, so I figured he'd be okay. But in the scene where the character Jonathan had the policeman tied in a chair and was getting ready to kill him, David stood up and asked in a worried voice, "Is this real?"

I said in his ear, "It's a comedy."

He immediately started laughing uproariously.

I don't know. I just don't know.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join the conversation about this posting.