State Theatre New Jersey

Family

It’s a Family Affair

One of my favorite things to see at the State Theatre is families enjoying arts experiences together. Music, dance, and theater delight us at any age—whether you’re one month or 100 years old, which makes the arts an ideal intergenerational activity, the perfect way for kids and adults to share some quality time. We hope that these kinds of shared experiences will set children on a path leading to a lifelong engagement with the arts. It seems to be working; I can’t begin to tell you how often I meet adult patrons at the State Theatre who still get excited talking about a show they saw here as a kid. Many of them are now bringing their own children (and even grandchildren) to the theater.

There are lots of opportunities for families to do some bonding at the State Theatre. We have shows geared specifically to young audiences (check out Daniel Tiger on May 21!), as well as shows that speak to the little kid in us all (you can look for me at B—The Underwater Bubble Show on March 30). Then there are the two State Theatre programs created specifically for families: Milk & Cookies and Family Day.

Our beloved Milk & Cookies series has been introducing young children to live performing arts for over a decade. On six Saturdays each season, we present music and storytelling in a cozy space on the theater’s second floor, where kids can sit up close to the action. The shows engage short attention spans with lots of audience participation: singing and clapping along, dancing, and becoming part of the performance. And true to the name, there’s free milk and cookies for the kids after the show! Tickets are just $3, so adults can afford to bring the whole  family. Some Milk & Cookies shows are designated Autism-Friendly Relaxed Performances, with special accommodations for children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues.

Milk & Cookies has been an educational experience for grownups, too. We give the adults in the audience a special job: modelling the proper way to behave at a live performance so their kids will watch and learn the rules of theater etiquette. One Milk & Cookies mom told me her daughter learned  these rules so well that she has become the family’s “cellphone police,” reminding them to turn off their devices whenever they go to the theater.

So if you happen to see any children when you’re at the State Theatre, be sure to give a big smile to the grownups who brought them. They’re giving their child a priceless gift, passing along their love for the performing arts to the next generation of theatergoers.

By Lian Farrer

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