One of my favorite activities as a parent is reading books with my son, Jake, 4. I get incredibly animated, use lots of silly voices and sound effects, and try my best to make the stories to come to life. Consequently, we have an extensive children's library at home and read together frequently. Two of our favorites are classics by Eric Carle—The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?—so, it's no surprise that our family was giddy with excitement last weekend when the award-winning Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia brought its epic production Treasured Stories by Eric Carle to the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.
Our family adventure started with an exclusive behind-the scenes tour of Symphony Space—a modern, sleek performing arts facility that was definitely designed with families in mind. As we traversed the different locations in the intimate theater, it was apparent that every seat in Symphony Space is a good one. Our first stop on the whirlwind tour included a discussion with the light technician for the theater. My son loves cause-effect relationships, so of course he enjoyed operating the theater's light-control panel while sliding the various switches and changing the colors onstage, as well as turning spot lights on and off. Next stop: the stage!
On tage, we got to meet the "hungry caterpillar," "brown bear" and members of the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, who patiently answered the exhausting interrogation by my preschooler. My son fired off countless questions about the texture of the animals, the use of colors, how the animals would talk, how the caterpillar moved, why the caterpillar wasn't "that big," how things were connected and why the lightbulbs onstage were purple (shhhhh...we learned that the performance was going to be glow-in the dark!).
Our final stop on the tour was lunch in the Thalia Cafe, located in the lower level of Symphony Space. Rather than take the steps like the rest of the people on the tour, our son opted for a brief detour—a ride in the elevator. This was another highlight as our son is obsessed with elevators and escalators. After taking the elevator up and down several times (our son was checking to make sure it worked properly. Disclosure: It works perfectly well), we joined the others for a kid-friendly lunch. With our stomachs satisfied, we were ready for the show.
We quickly found our seats. One important thing to note was the significant number of booster seats available at the theater entrance, so that every child, our son included, could be seated in a position where they could see above the adults. A few moments later, the lights went out and our family was taken on a mesmerizing journey into the world of Eric Carle. The glow-in-the dark production was clever, engaging, and captured the eyes and ears of my little guy for the entire show. It was a wonderful experience to see how three Eric Carle classic stories could be brought to life in such a creative way.
To our delight, after the performance, it was almost as if the Wizard of Oz stepped out from behind the curtain. The talented team from the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia spoiled the audience and did something that a good magician never does. They took questions from the children in the audience and revealed some of the tricks they used during the performance. We took these treasured secrets with us, as we are still flying high from our experience at Symphony Space. We look forward to creating future family memories with the Symphony Space "Just Kidding" family programs.
Lance Somerfeld is the founder and coorganizer of NYC Dads Group—a group dad-blog that seeks to help redefine what it means to be a “good dad” and reinforce the idea that dads can be nurturing, capable and confident parents.