Sunday, June 10, 2012

Characteristics of a Children's Audience

~ the differences between an audience full of adults and one filled with children ~
inspired by the book: Theatre for Children by David Wood with Janet Grant

When performing in a theatre, actors can expect an adult audience to remain seated for the entirety of the show (unless they think the performance is SO BAD or need to leave for an emergency). Actors can also expect the audience to clap and possibly give a standing ovation at the end of the show. The cast can also expect the audience will remain quiet and not talk during the performance.

When performing in front of an audience of children - the game changes.
Children will yell at "the bad guy", leave if they think the play is "stupid" or "lame", they will talk to their friends seated beside them when they are excited or don't understand something on stage AND children know what they like. They will clap if they like it and will show their appreciation only when they truly enjoy the play. If they do not enjoy the performance, they won't clap or cheer "just to be polite".

Indeed when it comes to comparing adult & child audiences there is no doubt that children are the honest ones while the adults are the polite ones.


#1. Children eagerly respond to Justice.
-when one character wrongs another
-what's "fair"
-justice prevails and good triumphs over evil
-gives children hope during times when they are wronged
*adults respond to characters responding to justice (good or bad)

#2. Children like to be frightened - within limits.
-being exposed to a negative force or evil character within the safety of a theatre
-the opportunity to interact with evil, stand up and save the day without being caused any trauma
-the supernatural, monsters make-believe or magic
-introduction of evil realities they may have to face in the future or in adult life
*adults have been exposed to more evil than children and need more "umph" to be frightened

#3. Children are healthily subversive.
-anything rude is found funny
-things that are considered inappropriate by adults in polite society are entertaining
-bodily functions, smelly socks, underpants, etc.
-daydreaming, disobedience, talking back, concealing one's thoughts/feelings & making fun of school & family
*adults are repulsed, turned-off or become disinterested if a production is not "tasteful"
[that is, if the adult audience is expecting a professional & serious show -
sometimes adults also like the crude. Surprise.]

#4. Children are logical.
-children do not enjoy, like or understand sub-plots or loose ends
*adults usually don't either but will be polite and say "nice show" even if they wanted to know what the hell happened???!!!

#5. Children act differently and unpredictably.
-children won't always yell out the right answer when asked for
-children may chant something unexpected like "teach him a lesson!" or "not that way!"
-try to predict what they will say & when but know that may not be the results you get
*adults do not tend to yell out or chant anything during a production and are difficult to encourage to do so

#6. Children make noise during productions.
-children may find the urge to copy a character's movement (ie. hop like a kangaroo)
-tip-up seats are NOT recommended for children's audiences
-children will speak with their friends when they get excited or don't understand something
*adults will sit still and silently to be polite...even if they think the play is awful

#7. Children respond to action.
-conversation must be linked with action or some kind of movement
-characters simply sitting and speaking is BORING
-children don't want a debate, they want things to get done!
*adults can remain attentive to a conversation and follow along more easily

#8. Children don't like being patronised.
-don't speak sweetly or down to them like a dog. Kids will TURN OFF
-if you question the intelligence of your audience you are sure that they will not respect you or the show
*adults don't like to be patronised either. Duh.

#9. Children don't like "lovey-dovey" stuff.
-children are more interested in the plight and challenges of two lovers than how they fell in love
*adults appreciate a good romance or a story of intense passion

#10. Children love animals and toys.
-children often imagine their toys or pets are alive with their own personalities & enjoy seeing this concept come to life on a stage
-children feel safer if the characters are animals or toys rather than someone that looks like themselves
*adults prefer stories about human interaction and relationships as our imagination has more limits than that of a child

#11. Children love stories
-play must have a strong, coherent, logical, basic and interesting plot with well-defined focus and characters
-children understand action & reaction better than reflection
-a journey from A to B is a simple concept but the conflicts amongst the characters and the obstacles along the way are what makes it interesting.
*adults love stories too. That's why we have live theatre!

Remember my friends and local thespians that if we do not cater to our children's audiences today and get them hooked on live theatre at a young age - we will not have an adult audience in the years to come.