WheneverI think about the Golden Age of Radio, I imagine families sitting around a single radio with big brown nobs, listening to famous comics like Abbott and Costello and Jack Benny. I can hear the innocence of shared laughter between mother and father and their young daughters and sons.
Don't get me wrong. I love high-technology of today because it allowed me to Skype with my daughters last spring when they both studied in Spain. Likewise, I am thrilled my children can call up information on any given subject with the click of the keys by accessing the Internet. However, I've noticed the more members
of this generation plug in digitally, the less they seem to connect personally. They text instead of talk. They take virtual tours of museums instead of showing up in person. They stream music through their MACbooks rather than attend live music and theatrical concerts.
This is why I'm so excited about the debut of the Northeast Children's Theatre Company (NCTC), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing entertaining and educational theater for young audiences. On Friday, March 2 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 3 at 11 am and 2 pm, its first production — the world premiere of “The Tortoise and the Hare” — will be performed at The Kweskin Theatre on Sterling Farms (1349 Newfield Ave.) in Stamford, CT. Recommended for children ages six years old and older, the original musical was written by Caitlin Lowans and Andrew Barbato, with music by Lesley DeSantis and Andrew Barbato. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and reservations can be made by calling 203.461.6358. For more information, go to www.NCTCompany.org.
Founded by Westport's Tyler Paul and Morgan Weitz, NCTC's goal is to bring to local stages shows putting fresh spins on classic children's tales. Every production is executed by a professional cast and the behind the scenes crews. "I looked around Fairfield County, where we have so many incredible opportunities to experience the arts, and where there are lots of drama schools, and I didn't see any one company specializing in theater for young audiences,” Tyler explained.
In partnership with Curtain Call, next weekend's performances are meant to whet audiences' appetite for high-quality theater that doesn't "dummy" down the material and pander to kids' penchant for bathroom humor, for example. In other words, grandparents in the audience won't have to blush or worry if a joke is truly going over their grandchild's head.
Additionally, NCTC will soon unveil plans for a touring company and educational programs designed to build upon the show's themes. “Each show will offer a new platform for teaching kids some of life lessons,” Tyler said. Through catchy, pop tunes and witty dialogue between like-able characters, such as Harvey Hare, Tommy Tortoise and Cindy Snail, kids will hear about the importance of friendship, self respect and teamwork — but not in a preachy, condescending manner.
As a theater-lover, I am excited to share my love of live performances. It sounds like a cliché but there is an inexplicable magic connecting artists/actors/musicians/dancers with their audiences. As a parent, I am thrilled to have my children see how satisfying this experience could be. I love to hear their feedback and I try not to let the reporter in me come out as I delve too deeply into their insights. Also, I really understand how much one needs to digest live theater. Often times I don't know how I feel about an especially compelling performance right away. I need time to ponder, to contemplate, to think about what I just experienced. So, I try to give my children this space, too.
However, I've also rushed out exuberantly out of theatres repeating over and over, "That was so-o-o great!" I want my children to feel this kind of excitement, too. Getting to a new level in a video game seems to be truly exhilarating for kids, but a connection with the arts is something that stays with them for years on end.