The girl and the stage

When I boarded the elevator in my building around 11 o' clock on the Sunday morning of a long holiday weekend, a mother and three children were already on. I could tell they were not residents, partly because I’d never seen them, but mostly from their shared excitement; they were going somewhere.

And dressed for it; each was in a new outfit. They were young enough that Maman chose: coordinated tees and shorts for the six and eight year old boys, a ditsy-flowered skirt and pink cardigan for the girl, about ten. They were a good stretch from adolescence, when their slouching-S postures will sag under hoodies. They looked like a catalog page: The boys’ ball caps were pristine; the girl’s braids firm and precise.

They’re not from here, I thought, noticing the careful ensembles and alert cheer. Maman spoke to them with calm precision. “We will have lunch with them”, she said, “ and after that, the theatre.”

Photo: Cirque du Soleil
This word floats past the boys, but “theatre” electrifies the girl. Her already large blue eyes widen with a pleasure pulled straight from her heart. She’s living for this, I thought.

I wanted to ask what they were seeing, but it didn't matter. (A guess: Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria".)

I felt grateful that the mother brought her children to a stage; live shows are now eclipsed by digital entertainment. I wanted the girl to have her thrill when the orchestra tunes up, the curtain lifts. The brothers, too—but it was she who counted the hours.

I was that girl once, taken from a small town with no year-round theatre or concert hall, for an annual trip to Chicago, where we would see a play or ballet—and once, at my mother's whim, an 11 p.m. cabaret performance. (The chanteuse was so surprised to see a child that she visited our table to ask what I was doing up. "Drinking a Shirley Temple, same as you", Mom retorted, eyeing her highball.)

'Patron of the arts' is a quaint term, partly because of high prices for live performance versus the broadcast and online options. Montréal still offers opportunities for reasonably-priced performances, and in summer, the city is studded with festivals from baroque to electronica to traditional Quebec dance and music. At the market, a young dancer handed me a flyer for the Festival Quartiers Danses, in September,

Photo: La Presse
Montréal's famous Jazz Festival begins June 27; a friend's coming. We bought tickets for a few concerts, but the many free stages will bring our average price per show way down.

An abundance of the performing arts (especially when affordable) makes people happier. I can't prove it, but see it on faces when a crowd gathers, whether for the annual free opera in my street at the close of Italian Week or a subway-station jug band.

At each roll-down of the Passage's shutters, I like to make a wish, and this summer's is that you, too, will take take a young person to a live, local performance, something you think she'd like.

I'm guessing you already have an idea!


Laura J said…
An excellent wish!! And if it feels awkward to take a young person often with local groups you could subsidize tickets for young people. By the real Joy is taking them. I still cherish my first real ballet performance I was taken to— magical! And nothing beats live music and dance!
Madame Là-bas said…
I was not taken to performances but I enjoyed taking my daughter who still loves life theatre and the symphony. It would be fun to take a young person but I have no grandchildren. As Laura J suggests perhaps I could subsidize some child through the church.
fmcgmccllc said…
My almost 4 year old grand daughter say a live presentation of Daniel Tiger at the theater in Burlington, Vermont. My son said her smile was the biggest he has ever seen. It begins.
Maria said…
The immediacy of the performing arts and the connection between an audience and performers is magical. I grew up and still live in a large city with many opportunities to attend live performances. Your post made me stop to think about how lucky I am to have easily been able to attend a wide variety of performing arts throughout my life. I took my daughter to many plays and concerts from an early age and she still enjoys plays now that she’s 20. I hope that one day I’ll be in a position to accompany a future grandchild to a live performance. Failing that, I’ll have to think about what other young people I can introduce to the wonderful world of live performance.
Kamchick said…
We live in the bush near a small rural village. Around Christmas every year we head down to Toronto to take the kids and grands out for brunch and then to a live performance (good seats too). It beats Christmas shopping! In May, we go again - this time to see the grands in their annual dance recital. Every year it is brilliant - dance, music, costumes - so much work goes into each one.
LauraH said…
Thanks for the timely reminder to book seats at Cirque de Soleil for me and my nephew. We both love it!
sensitive poet said…
I've had the immense joy of attending concerts and theatre with my parents, and the same years later with my husband (he lives for the theatre, especially the Shaw, and I live for music, especially Bach/Baroque - but we each love them both).
Then I had the joy of taking my sons to the theatre - having a teenaged hockey player absolutely enthralled by Greek tragedy written millenia ago, sitting on the edge of his seat as the chorus lamented the fate of Oedipus, was a wonderful experience for me.
Now I take my grand daughters to the pantomime and Christmas shows.
Duchesse said…
Laura J: A wonderful idea to make these events available to youths by subsidy. Some cultural institutions have greatly reduced prices for under 30s or students but even that cost can be a barrier.

Mme Là- bas: Some organization allow donors to designate the focus of their donations, such as youth programs or school perfromance programs.

fmc: Wonderful, both the parents’ initiative and the smile of an enraptured 4 year old.

Maria: We pass love of the arts on, a profound gift.

Kamchick: Wonderful memories of the Toronto Children’s Theatre. What a treat you have given your family.

LauraH: I was thinking of you twi as I wrote this!

sensitive poet: Yes! I had same experience when we dragged the blasé 14 yr olds to “ Amadeus”... Mozart. They were hanging on every word and still talk about it eighteen years later. How wonderful to begin the rituals again with your granddaughters.
JohnInWI said…
Already did it. I attended the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, at a local park, with my son. Free concert, and it was he who wanted to stay until the last note and noticed the sunset.
He has seen Yo-Yo Ma's performance in the Montreal subway as part of his Bach Project. He sat in $200 seats for an OSM concert (students of the musicians get them for $20!). Montreal has a wealth of opportunities to hear music. I must plug college music programs. Recitals, master classes, ensembles of every genre. Many of them free. And these young people are talented and passionate about their music. -Lily
Unknown, sometimes this lovely blogger discusses this offering, as one of her adult children is a classical musician: We have many such opportunities in the boroughs hereabouts. Just north of here, there is Maison de la culture Claude Léveilée, with many concerts and performances. Tango in Parc de la Petite-Italie. And festival Présence autochtone, featuring musicians, artist, filmmakers and other Indigenous artists from throughout the Americas and beyond. While there are some paying concerts, there is a lot of free content as well.

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