Category Archives: children’s shows

smiling dad and daughter

Does Theater Make Us Better People? 

In a May 2021 Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, authors Steve Rathje, Leor Hackel, and Jamile Zaki made the case that experiencing the magic of theater makes us collectively better people. We love this concept and wanted to explore this a bit further now that the theater industry is coming back after 18 months of being shut down due to the coronavirus. 

holding hands

Why Theater Makes Us Better? 

According to Rathje, Hackel, and Zaki, theater makes us better people because, “it is a vital way to build psychological skills — especially empathy, or our ability to share, understand and care about others’ emotions.”

At the heart of their article they pose the question, “Can watching theater actually build people’s capacity to care?” There’s actually some scientific research that has been done that supports this idea. 

In a nutshell, over 1,600 surveys were given to theatergoers before and after performances in two major cities; New York City and Portland, Oregon. 

The viewers watched either “Skeleton Crew,” written by Dominique Morisseau or “Wolf Play” by Hansol Jung. The former being about auto workers in Detroit at the start of the financial crisis and the latter revolving around the struggles of a a lesbian couple trying to adopt a child. 

In both cases the surveys were meant to determine if empathy for the auto workers or lesbian couple increased due to experiencing the show based on those stories. 

The findings were exactly what the authors believed, theater can make us better, more empathetic, caring people. “After seeing the plays, we found that audience members expressed more empathy for the groups depicted onstage and changed their attitudes about a wide range of political issues.”

The study even showed a change in behavior for the theatergoers who increased their donations to a charity. The way this part of the experiment works went as follows: 

  • Audience members were given the option to donate some of their payment money to a charity. 
  • The more they gave to a charity the less they would receive in the form of a gift card. 
  • After seeing the plays, audience members donated more to charity regardless of whether the charity was related to the plays.

couple at sunset

Psychologists Weigh In 

Historically, psychologists have believed that theater has the power to teach about current topics, help viewers change their attitudes, build psychological skills, and reduce prejudice. 

Psychological skills such as empathy, compassion, and sharing can be built just by merely experiencing a show. The authors of the LA Op-Ed explained theater as a sort of “empathy-gym” where the brain is taught to strengthen the skills of empathy and compassion towards others by experiencing what they feel through a show or musical. 

Additionally, theater can help change our attitudes and reduce prejudices just by “walking in someone else’s shoes” during a performance. The experience allows people to understand someone else’s circumstances and experience life from someone else’s perspective. 

What do you think? Can theater help us become better, more empathetic people? Drop us a line below and let us know your thoughts. 

 

Most Popular High School Musicals & Plays – Part 2

Last week we explored the most popular high school musicals including: The Addams Family, Mama Mia, and Beauty and the Beast. Now we shift our sights toward plays that have ranked in the top 10 according to an NPR Education Performance poll

One of these delightful shows may make it on your short list for this year’s performances. Enjoy our resources and remember that our backdrops coordinate with major shows to make your scenery come to life. 

Sherlock Holmes

Top Ranking Plays 

There are so many great plays out there that deciding on one for your group of teens can be a long and difficult process. Here are three of the top ranking plays that your group may fall in love with including: Clue, Almost, Maine, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  We have included general information on the number of cast members and ensemble requirements for your planning purposes. 

Clue 

Based upon the Hasbro board game and the 1985 Paramount movie of the same name, Clue is a beloved murder mystery story with a comedic twist. According to Broadway Licensing, Clue tells the story of a dinner party gone wrong when the host turns up dead.

The main characters, Wadsworth, the butler, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.

Almost, Maine 

Set in a remote and mythical town, Amost, Maine is a series of nine short plays that examines the themes of love and loss. The main characters, residents of Almost, Maine, find themselves falling in and out of love in various and sometimes hilarious manners. 

Almost, Maine set box office records and has been adapted into a book of the same name. Your students are sure to love this quirky and thoughtful play. 

Casting for this play is flexible and can range from four main actors taking on several parts or 19 actors taking individual roles. 

A Midsummer’s Night Dream 

In this Shakespeare play, the theme of love resurfaces again and again. Set in Athens, Greece, the plot of this complex play revolves around the planning of the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta

Subplots, (and there are many,) follow two Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors rehearsing for the wedding day, who find themselves in a forest inhabited by fairies. 

Like every great Shakepearian play, there is conflict, love, and eventual resolution, sometimes with hilarious outcomes. Your students will love the challenge this complex layered play will provide. 

Even with the pause from last year during the pandemic, high school musicals and plays are as popular as ever. Check out the lists from Playbill that rank the top musicals and plays. You are sure to find one that fits the skills, size, and depth of the acting provided in your school. 

 

high school musical

Most Popular High School Musicals & Plays – Part 1

Oh, how we have missed traditional high school musicals and play performances coming out of the nation’s secondary schools this past year. This type of performance is often a young person’s first outlet or foray into expressing themselves or their art. In fact, many young people get the theater “bug” during their high school years and go on to act for years to come. 

According to a study released by NPR Education Publishing, there are ten top shows that rank as the best musicals and plays for high school level performances. This takes into account the size of the cast, skill set needed, and popularity of the storyline. Theater groups, directors, and producers may want to utilize some of these findings as they begin their search for the perfect show this fall or winter. 

Let’s take a look back at some of the most popular high school plays and musicals to give you inspiration to plan your next performance. 

Top Ranking Musicals 

In the category of highest ranking musicals, the top three include: The Addams Family, Mama Mia, and Beauty and the Beast. Just hearing those names has my toes tapping and some catchy lyrics spinning around in my head. 

The Addams Family 

A comedic marvel, the Addams Family celebrates the quirky differences that every family experiences. The story unfolds as daughter, Wednesday, brings home a “normal” boy who must impress her parents as he begins to date their special daughter. The Addams family requires 10 major roles with a flexible ensemble. The licensing belongs to Theatrical Rights Worldwide

Mama Mia 

Set on a beautiful Greek island, Mama Mia tells the story of a young bride-to-be trying to determine who her real father is. The bride discovers that three men are possible matches to be her true father. The story is told using the hit songs by 1970’s singing group ABBA. 

The cast includes 13 main parts with singing roles and a large ensemble that will need dancing and choreography skills. If this musical sounds like it is one your students would love, the licensing belongs to Music Theater International

Beauty and the Beast 

This favorite musical explores the true meaning of loving someone for what is inside rather than just their appearance. Beauty and the Beast follows the unlikely love story of a village girl who was determined to save the life of her father from the grotesque Beast. She then finds out that everyone has a story and that the Beast is no beast after all. 

The cast includes 12 major roles and a very large ensemble with dancing and choreography skills. If your theater group is interested in this show it is licensed by Music Theater International

Want the complete list of rankings for high school musicals? Check out these resources that can help you determine your shows this year. Don’t forget to check out our scenery and backdrop options that correspond to each show. 

 

Frozen soap bubble

Frozen Fans Delight in Our Backdrops 

Are you or your children super fans of Disney’s Frozen movie? If so, you may spend your days turning normal conversations into songs from the wildly popular 2013 movie. If your kids can’t just “Let It Go” you may need to find an outlet for their obsession in the form of a Frozen themed birthday party or summer get together with friends. Here are a few ideas on how to use our Frozen themed backdrops for your next gathering. 

deer in snowy woods

You May Be A Frozen Super Fan If…

Sure, we all loved Frozen! Who doesn’t love a story about resilience, sisterhood, true love, and, of course, a movie with a singing snowman named Olaf? 

Some of us go a little beyond just loving the movie and step over into being a superfan. You may be a Frozen super fan if: 

  • Knocking on a door without saying “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” is difficult.
  • You want to be both Elsa and Anna. 
  • You find it difficult to say “Okay, bye” without adding in the next lines from the movie. 
  • You name your winter snowman Olaf. 
  • You create castles out of ice in your free time. 
  • The idea of a reindeer as a pet sounds like a good idea. 
  • Your search for signs of Frozen in other Disney Movies. 
  • Kristoff is your dream guy. 
  • You recognize the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and Santino Fontana anywhere.

ice palace

Backdrops for Your Frozen Party, Dance Performance or Cosplay

If you’re planning a party centered around Queen Elsa’s Ice Castle or Anna dancing around the streets of Arendelle, our backdrops can help you set the stage for the perfect snowy scene. 

From the cobblestoned streets of a European village, to the snowy backdrop of the hills above Arendelle to the famous Ice Palace that Elsa retreats to, we have the perfect backdrops for your next Frozen party or local musical. Not only are our backdrops easy to set up and take down, but they make the perfect addition to parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, theater groups, and dance performances alike. 

Add your own costumes to our breathtaking backdrops and the children and adults will be amazed how a theater or backyard can be transformed into a place of magic and wonderment! 

Frozen, the movie, is considered by some critics as Disney’s best animated film since the studio’s Renaissance Era. If you or your children love Frozen as much as we do, check out our backdrops of a European city street, our snowy tree backdrops, the Ice Palace and more on our backdrops page. 

 

Disney castle

Our Favorite Broadway Children’s Shows

While the lights on Broadway may still not be shining, we still can enjoy the memories of shows that kept us singing, toe-tapping, and smiling for days and weeks after. Children’s Shows are most especially enjoyable to remember as they hold a bit of innocence and youth that has been missing for the past year. 

Here are some of our most favorite children’s shows on Broadway to get us in the mood to hopefully welcome back theater in our lives within the next year. 

African lion face image

The Lion King 

What’s not to love about the story of an adorable lion cub named Simba coming to age and learning lessons of life such as the value of friendship and self-reliance. Not only is the story line relatable but the sets are visually amazing. The unique puppetry and incredibly moving score from Elton John and Tim Rice put it right at the top of our “must see” list once theaters reopen. If your organization or theater is planning a production of Lion King, check out our backdrops that could make your show come to life. 

Aladdin The Musical 

Did you know that 10 million people around the world have already seen the musical Aladdin? If you have not had the chance to experience the singing, dancing, and amazing costumes you need to schedule your opportunity as soon as you can. The set and costume designs alone are enough to draw in any audience member. In fact, one costume is so elaborate that it has over 8,600 Swarovski diamonds on it! Check out our Arabian and desert themed backdrops for your next Aladdin production. 

palm trees and red carpet moroccan oasis

Dear Evan Hansen 

The Tony Award winning show, Dear Evan Hansen, is a show about community and connection. This dramatic show resonates with older children and teens as it tells the tale of fitting in and the angst of being true to yourself. Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a young man with social anxiety disorder who so yearns to make a connection with his peers that he fabricates a relationship with a deceased student to become closer to the boy’s family. Go as a family and discuss the issues of mental illness, teen suicide, and the overwhelming feeling of the need to belong. 

Hamilton 

If you are looking for a show for the whole family, this is the one to see! Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical has inspired people of all ages and walks of life. This non-stop production gets the whole family interested in our Founding Fathers and the early years of our nation. The choreography and lyrics are addictive enough to find yourself singing about being Alexander Hamilton or not missing out on Your Shot! 

When the curtains finally go up on Broadway once again, start looking to support the theater industry by scheduling one of these wonderful shows.