Babies and parents and theatre, oh my!

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By: Emily Holtby

Photo: Pictured: Malindi Ayienga (Performer) | Photo by Ali Sultani.

During the winter of 2018, I was a sleep-deprived new mom with a 6-month-old baby girl struggling with the stress of filling our days with fun while simultaneously not wanting to leave the house. I was so privileged to have a few friends on paternity leave with me and we would rotate houses weekly, releasing the babies to roll around with each other while drinking plentiful cups of coffee trading war stories of the past week’s challenges.

Then one day, we left the house. I packed up my girlfriends and our cranky infants and brought them to GCTC for One Thing Leads to Another, a special tour stop from Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre for their theatre for young audiences repertoire. 

In my previous life, I had been to GCTC countless times. I would enjoy a glass of wine paired with some mature, thought provoking theatre.  I had loved theatre so much that it was my chosen major in university. This time, as I wrangled my clunky stroller through the doors, I realized it was my first time walking through that entrance STRESSED.

HOW would my 6-month-old baby possibly be able to sit through one hour of theatre? I was thinking I was crazy for thinking this and even crazier for dragging along my friends. On arrival to the second floor studio space, however, all the stress faded away. 

I was greeted by the ever charming and glamorous Nicole Milne, GCTC’s Director of Marketing and Development who guided me to their ‘stroller park’ outside the theatre doors. 

We were encouraged to bring everything we needed into the theatre and reminded that whatever happened during the performance was all good. 

Screaming child when the lights dim? No problem! Poopy diaper change required mid-performance? Encouraged!  Nursing time? Welcomed!

Except, when the lights dimmed, there were no screaming babies, each and every one of those infants sat in silence with anticipation. There is no other way to describe the experience but, MAGIC.

These kids were MESMERIZED by the colours, the sounds, the movement, the props and of course, the two prolific performers.  They knew their audience and they delivered.

For me at that moment, my emotions took over. Theatre has always been my safe space. It’s where I feel most myself. To see my child sitting in front of me, taking in every second of the performance brought tears to my eyes. 

I could almost feel the creativity and excitement flowing through her little body as she was experiencing her first piece of live theatre.

You see, theatre for young audiences is not only an effective educational tool for children but it’s an opportunity for exploration and creativity. It is literally good for the soul.

I just heard the news that the show is returning again this February. My daughter will be 19 months at the next show and I eagerly await the day to see how her interaction with the performance has evolved. And honestly, I can’t wait to experience the magic again for myself.

One Thing Leads to Another runs from February 6-10 with showtimes at 10am and 1pm.

General NewsAndrew Soobrian