December 5, 2010
And now, we take a break from the grown-up stuff to have an day of family fun. On this afternoon, an event in The Paramount Theatre’s Play Time Series was to unfold. Famed children’s literature character Junie P. Jones was to come alive on stage in a holiday tale called “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” It was to be the first collaboration between this theatre and the UT Department of Theatre & Dance. The heck with Batman and Robin; UT and The Paramount were sounding like the new dynamic duo!
Next door at The State Theatre, there were activities galore for Play Time subscribers and donors. An event provided by Theatre Action Project before the Junie show, it was a real kid haven. We’re talking a craft mecca in there: candy cane reindeer, Christmas tree cut-outs, ornaments, popsicle stick sculptures, and of course… glitter! The place was filled with happy kiddos and helpful adults. Seeing all of the little imaginations at work was thrilling. For them, the possibilities were endless.
For the half hour or so that I was there, nothing was more fun than to see all of the little ones working as diligently as Santa’s elves on their various projects. I hope you brought the big purse, Mommy, because it was getting stuffed with handfuls of crafts. Granted, because the childrens’ hands were smaller, they were tiny handfuls. But soon, it was time to put away the glue and pipe cleaners. On to The Paramount next door. It’s nearly showtime!
As I walked in, one thing was certain: I’ve rarely felt taller in my life. The young ‘uns were abundant, but best of all everything was catered to them. The snack bars eschewed the regular menu of tasty adult beverages for more kid-friendly fare. For me, that meant I actually felt guilt drinking my traditional Dr Pepper. Discretely carrying my soda into the auditorium, I noticed ushers were giving programs to every youngster that walked by. “Wait a tic! Where’s mine?” I thought to myself. Once I finally held one in my hands, I saw why the youngsters got the royal treatment. You see, the programs were also activity books. Inside were elementary lessons about set design, costumes, and even lighting. Each was accompanied by cute little activities and games. Neat-O, right!? Alas, I felt like an adult at a restaurant browsing the children’s menu (you know, the kind that come with crayons for the word searches), and promptly gave my program to an eager grade-schooler.
I took my seat (again feeling tall with all of the smaller bodies occupying seats around me), and soon the lights went down.
And it was a fantastic show. The vibe was fun and festive, and the bright lights, vibrant colors, and animated performances yielded all the appropriate ooohs and ahhhs. The audience was eagerly playing to the beat of the story, ready for every silly gag and pratfall that appeared on stage. Junie and her gang were playful, funny, and identifiable (regardless of your age).
One thing I noticed, however, was the exemplary behavior I witnessed during the show. I never heard one crying toddler, one spilled snack, one fidgety child or any unnecessary talking. Every kid within range was transfixed at the spectacle before them. Of course, during the intermission and after the show the whole place was a chatter, but during the act all were respectful and mesmerized. Any old timer who laments the days of well-behaved kids should’ve been there that afternoon. It warmed he heart to witness children having fun without having a wiimote strapped to their hand or planted in front of a television.
The magic was a testament to a successful collaboration. The performers did an admirable job recapturing the wonder of youth, and the theatre transformed its historic venue into a playground for the imagination. All in all, it was a smashing success in bringing smiles to hundreds of little faces.
Yep, the tiny ones ate it up, but so did (at least) one adult. Perhaps that afternoon I was just an overgrown kid myself, but giving in to the festivities, I had a great time too. And judging by the smiles around me on older faces, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only grown up who had a blast. It’s not everyday you can indulge the inner child and just let go, but the day’s merriment warmed everyone’s heart long after the curtain fell.