When I was asked to be a part of Wheels on the Bus I can honestly say I was a bit hesitant. Although I do a lot of TYA, I had no prior experience in theatre for the very young and it was a nerve-wracking gig, but it has been an absolute pleasure.
Wheels on the Bus takes the audience on an imaginary bus for an interactive journey that examines all manners of things that go around.
As the bus driver, I invite the kids to patriciate in the show in whatever way they seem fit and they truly take this to heart. One pivotal point in the show is when the bus breaks down, as the driver I look inside and see giant gears that have stopped working, so we bring mini versions of the gears to the kids and ask them if they could help us make them go around. There are many interactive points in the show and sometimes we invite the kids to join us on stage to be an airplane with us, or help us put some round toppings on the pizza we are making.
During one of my favorite performances, we invited all the kids to come up and dance like airplanes with us.
In a sold-out house of 45 patrons only one little girl came up, but she took center stage and owned her airplane.
Having this kind of interaction does come with its challenges, sometime a child or two may wander backstage or take the prop that we are about to use, but rather than reprimanding or saying no to them we invite them and ask them questions about said props. One time a child saw our sound system with volume control knobs, so, during a very loud bus traveling sound cue, he decided he wanted to see how those knobs worked and turned the volume on blast! Luckily, I was able to adjust the sound quickly on my handy-dandy iPod that I keep on my arm throughout the show.
This kind of kinetic learning is a huge part of why TVYA matter.
I believe this work is so important, has great cognitive benefits for the developing and curious minds, and is so engaging and mesmerizing for the very young. I am one happy bus driver!
Thanks Salim, for sharing your thoughts, and for driving that school bus--forty toddlers can't be easy!
There are still some seats available for our season of Theatre for the Very Young, get them before they are gone!
Here are some other great articles on the importance of Theatre for the Very Young:
SF Chronicle: Toddler Stage: The Very Little Get in on the Improv Act
Children's Fairyland: Theatre for the Very Young