Commentary: I took my 9-year-old to the opera, and she loved it.

Amy Graff, The Mommy Files blog for The San Francisco Gate, 9/17/12

Last year when my daughter was 8, I took her to the San Francisco Opera's shortened version of Carmen. She was enchanted -- yet also irritated she missed an entire act. Ever since, my daughter has been asking me to take her to a "real" opera, and last weekend her dream finally came true. I was a little nervous. Could my energetic and callow child sit through 2 hours of Rigoletto? I bought the cheapest seats. In the very back of the balcony. I didn't want to spend a lot in case we left after the first act. "I'm bringing my daughter," I told [the woman at the ticket office] hesitantly. "How old is she?" "9?" There was a pause. I considered backing out. 9 is too young. She jumped into the silence with a reassuring, "That's a good age to start!" I won't attempt to write about the actual most memorable opera moment is watching Pretty Woman. I'd never been to the opera until Saturday night. But I will tell you my daughter was mesmerized by the performance. When it was all over she clapped wildly and kept looking over at me and saying, "That was so good." Most of the opera patrons looked at my daughter and smiled, and the usher who directed us to our seats said, "It's so nice to see a young face." But we also received several dirty looks. The frumpily dressed couple sitting next to us looked at my daughter with disapproval. I could practically hear them thinking, We didn't come to the opera to sit next to a child. But what I'd say to these people....the opera needs her. She's enthusiastic and after the show, she asked when we'd return. She's got me thinking about investing in season tickets (in the back balcony, of course) and I'd be surprised if she doesn't turn into a regular patron. We sat among a sea of empty seats, and my daughter was troubled the show wasn't sold-out. "Mommy, why aren't there more people here? If I could, I would come every night."


Kids star in many new Broadway shows; which will young audiences embrace?

Patrick Healy, The New York Times, 9/9/12

Of the three coming Broadway musicals about plucky girls persevering against cruel adults and grim circumstances, which show will break out of the pack and become a box office hit? Only one in three new Broadway shows becomes a hit, theatergoers have 70 [sic] or so productions to choose from each year, and most see only a few shows annually. Yet Annie, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and Matilda the Musical will test a proposition (or wishful thinking) of their producers, that there is plenty of money to go around among a significant box office demographic, the female family line: those daughters and mothers and aunts and grandmothers who have helped make hits out of Wicked, The Lion King and other musicals about growing up. "As Wicked discovered, there are females of all ages who will go see, over and over again, a story about a girl who isn't the most popular or pretty, but who is curious about the world and has a resiliency that can overcome even the meanest bullies," said Robyn Goodman, one of the lead producers of Cinderella. "And yes, I certainly know Annie and Matilda will be competing with us for those same ticket buyers," she added with a chuckle. "But I think little girls and teenage girls will go see one of these new shows with their family, love it and then want to see the other two." Broadway group-sales agents say that Annie is the best seller so far of the three new family-oriented shows, though a major reason is its performances start Oct. 3; the other two are on sale as well, but Cinderella does not begin until Jan. 21 and Matilda has its first performance on March 4. Stephanie Lee, president of Group Sales Box Office, a major ticket agency on Broadway, said "I think all [3 shows] have an incredible chance to do well with so many groups and families where young girls can influence the ticket purchases -- the Girl Scouts, dance organizations, school groups, mother-daughter groups." The wave of new family-oriented Broadway productions [also includes] A Christmas Story and Elf this year.


Commentary: Should kids be allowed to attend the wild arts festival Burning Man?

Sunny Chanel, Strollerderby blog, 8/29/12

A trek out to the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada for the annual Burning Man festival is not for the faint of heart. It is hot, dusty, wild and there will be sex, drugs, and plenty of booze -- not really a Romper Room type of place. Despite the debauchery, each year many a brave family will bask in the glory of all that Burning Man has to offer. But would you? Bringing children could potentially be an amazing experience from the art, performances and just the sheer creativity on display there. As Max Icon on the Burning Man website said bringing the kids to Burning Man is, "not an easy decision, but it may prove to be one of the best field trips you could ever take them on."  Judi Morales Gibson (who has brought her son to the event since he was 16-months-old - he is now 8) said, "Speaking as a parent, I truly believe the experience and the Ten Principles provide an amazing educational immersion that can't be found anywhere else." Enough parents are bringing their children to Burning Man that a whole "village" has been established, where families can camp with other families. Then there are the non-families [which] aren't that thrilled with the "family" tone that Burning Man has adopted. On a Burning Man message board a poster named Captain Goddammit wrote: "I personally don't care how you raise your kid. I personally don't think Burning Man will harm your kid. But your kid will harm Burning Man."


Commentary: Kids, ages 3-10, say the darndest things about modern art

Judith H. Dobrzynski, blog Real Clear Arts, 8/13/12

Get ready to laugh. As museums and parents try to figure out how to get kids interested in art, it's amusing to learn what they think when they first see it. Can you guess whose paintings in the collection [of New York's Museum of Modern Art] these kids are talking about:

  • It's just a big red piece of paper with four lines on it. It's not very interesting. I'd rate it a one-star. I think it's stupid.
  • It's fun to look at because you see kind of like a target-shaped thing... There are little faces that could be like fake people peeking up and you could try and shoot them with a bow and arrow. They're real people.
  • Make-up Girl. It's too much eye shadow. I never saw a lady with pink skin. I think I saw a picture of her before but I'm not sure what her name is. I think she's in the fashion show. I saw a TV commercial that have those same exact colors.

Those are a few excerpts from a new feature on AudioTourHack called MoMA Unadulterated:

" unofficial audio tour created by kids. Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art's deeper meaning, and why some stuff's so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big "p" words."

The kids comment on 30 works of art -- those above are by Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, respectively -- and they are both touching and hilarious at times. But beyond the fun, AudioTourHack, has a serious mission: "to use creative story-telling to send people on fun, interactive journeys, redefining the way they perceive art and their surroundings." The AudioHackTour people say on their website, "We sincerely hope it introduces a wider audience to the art and gallery and reinvigorates both adults' and children's love of art."  As funny as the podcasts are -- and they are worth a listen no matter how you know about art -- they may just serve their purpose well.

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