Kidcast explores the benefits of children’s theater

Taking children to a live theater show can be intimidating, but Pittsburgh Cultural Trust makes it easy with shows that travel around the region. The Children’s Theater Series shows are affordable and only an hour long. And they even offer the EQT Bridge Series of shows for pre-teens and teenagers. Kristine Sorensen talks with Pam Komar, who runs these theater series, about why theater is important for kids of all ages, as well as some highlights this season. Here’s their edited conversation.

Kristine Sorensen: Pam, you know I’m a lover of theater myself, but why is theater important for kids to see?

Pam Komar: We don’t spend enough time together as families, and seeing theater together is so important. It gets us away from our individual experiences, like what we have on our phones and iPads, and gives us a shared adventure, all from the comfort of a theater seat.

There are many additional benefits, such as learning from a new situation that you might not have gone through or your child or grandchild might not have experienced.  You can see it from another person’s perspective.

We also present a lot of international theater productions, so you can see cultures from all over the world on stage, right here in Pittsburgh.

Kristine Sorensen: You’re celebrating the 50th season of the Children’s Theater Series.  Explain what it is and how it works.

Pam Komar: The Children’s Theater Series started life in Mt. Lebanon as performing arts for children, and we’ve seen three generations experience theater in Mt. Lebanon, as well as in other neighborhoods. Each of the shows in the series comes into town for about 10 days, and they perform downtown in Pittsburgh’s very own cultural district at the Byham Theater, and then the show makes the rounds of five different suburban neighborhoods. So you can find theater right in your own backyard.

Kristine Sorensen: Tell me about one of the shows coming up.

Pam Komar: I’m very excited for our show coming in January, which is based on the “Magic School Bus” series. I remember that as a child, and it’s wonderful to share it with today’s children. It’s the original story of the bus going to outer space, and it’s quite exciting.  It’s appropriate for children ages 3 and up.

Kristine Sorensen: When kids get a little older, there’s the EQT Bridge Theater Series.  Explain what that is.

Pam Komar: We found that families were sad that their children were aging out of the Children’s Theater Series programming, so we created the EQT Bridge Theater Series to speak specifically to pre-teens and teenagers. All of the performances happen downtown in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District at venues owned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. It’s really exciting to be able to see these shows with the bigger kids, ages 7 and up.  You’ll find that the topics are more robust. Sometimes, the content of a show can help a family approach a situation that your preteen or teenager might be struggling with or that they’ll have to deal with someday. It can open up tough conversations but still be enjoyable and exciting at the same time.

Kristine Sorensen: Tell us about the next show in the EQT Bridge Theater Series.

Pam Komar: In January, we will bring “An Elephant in the Garden”, which is a wonderful one-woman show from the United Kingdom, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo.  People will know him from “War Horse” and the success of that show on Broadway.

This is a wonderful story about an elephant and its human keepers who are fleeing at the end of World War II. It’s an excellent way to bring up wartime discussion, but to make it a little bit lighter and wonderful in terms of imagining fleeing somewhere with a giant elephant.