Kid-World Problems

Performing can be a challenge when your audience is acting up

April 11, 2013
Working with a giant duck is the least of the challenges faced by Leigh Jameson, left (with Megan Graves in “The Magic Finger”).
Working with a giant duck is the least of the challenges faced by Leigh Jameson, left (with Megan Graves in “The Magic Finger”).

Oh, of course your kid enjoys a night at the symphony, probably preceded by a tasting menu that is emphatically chicken-nugget-free. Getting most kids exposed to music and theater, though, takes places like Imagination Stage, which produces quality shows meant to engage audiences whose underpants have superheroes stretched across the butts.

Imagination Stage currently is showing two pieces in repertory based on works by Roald Dahl: “James and the Giant Peach” and “The Magic Finger.” Leigh Jameson, who plays Ladybug in the former and Mrs. Gregg in the latter, talked to Express about the challenges of playing to a pint-sized audience.

Challenge: Your character is a ladybug.

Strategy: “I approach the script like any other script,” Jameson says. “The last thing an actor does is talk down to a kid, or ham it up for a kid. They want to have an adult experience that is gently provided for them.”

Challenge: Child flips out because of scary moment/lack of nap/desire to embarrass Mommy.

Strategy: “Imagination Stage is very gracious — they provide a quiet room inside the theater,” Jameson says. “It’s a soundproof box with see-through walls, and if there’s a meltdown, Mom or Dad or Dads or Moms can take them into the corner room and enjoy the production until the kid’s moment is done. We do expect some more noise than if I were going to be attending a production of, you know, Ibsen.”

Challenge: Child “helpfully” shouts instructions at the actors.

Strategy: “The grown-ups, when you go to the normal theater, are on their cellphones or knitting or falling asleep or singing along with the music. We see everything,” Jameson says. “There’s something a little less disrupting about a 6-year-old who needs to talk at us than a parent that has to check their email.”

Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda; through May 26, $12-$27; 301-280-1660. (Bethesda)
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Marc Silver | April 11, 2013