I’m not really sure what I was expecting.
When our daughter became old enough to watch TV – or should I say, when we threw up our hands and said “To hell with it. Watch this. We’ve got stuff to do.” – Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was a welcome gateway to the small screen.
I probably don’t need to tell you, a fellow parent, about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood positive life lessons, the nostalgic link it has for our generation back to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, or the fact that Teacher Harriet sounds like she smokes a daily pack of unfiltered Marlboro Reds. So when I saw that Daniel Tiger Live would be coming to the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, it seemed like the perfect way to introduce my now 4-year-old to her first theatrical experience. (Not to mention, but I will, that I was stoked to see the newly refurbished theater with its French baroque architecture and location not far from where my dad grew up. Sure, I thought the first time I would check out this joint would be to see Death Cab for Cutie or Tori Amos — don’t judge me — but such is the parenting life.)
More importantly, I was curious what would my daughter’s reaction be to the experience. I fell in love with live theater when I was a freshman at Xavier High School in Brooklyn. We did a production of Oliver! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the trademarked title. I checked), and our dress rehearsal was performed for kids from the Foundling Home around the corner. Being a naïve dipshit, I assumed these kids would be a”bad audience” – talking, jeering, you name it. You’re going to find this hard to believe, but 15-year-old me was wrong. The kids were enthralled, one of the best audiences I’ve ever performed for. Turns out kids from broken homes who’ve known a lot of struggle in their short lives really connect with the story of an orphan struggling to find his place in the world.
On the subway to the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood show that night, I reflected on the power of the unique human habit of gathering in groups to tell and listen to stories – how they give us a different perspective on the human experience, the ways they interconnect us, or sometimes just give us a much needed break for a few hours.
So would seeing Daniel Tiger Live mean my daughter would grow to love the theater as I do? Would this be her first step into a larger world? Would this be the first of many times we go to shows or concerts together? One day, will she drag me to see some boy band that will make One Direction seem like The Pixies?
As the lights went down these thoughts raced through my head. And then, this one did too:
“SHE’S FOUR! Let her just watch the damn show and enjoy herself.”
Not everything done for the first time needs to be a magical experience. As a parent, sometimes it’s good to remember to just take a deep breath, relax and let the kid have her fun.
Two things I took away from this event are:
- Definitely check out the Kings Theatre. It is truly a thing of beauty. Plus the décor itself could class anything up. Seriously, put The Jerry Springer Show there and you could probably get the Times to come review it. They also served alcohol, which was a mercy for a lot of parents. Not me, I was parenting solo, and while I would never drink to the point of inebriation around her it was pretty chaotic in there and there was a fear that if we got separated for a second, she could get lost. Plus, it would be pretty bad optics if I tell the police “yeah, I don’t know happened officer. I turned around and my kid was gone” (sips gin and tonic).
- Kudos to the woke casting in the live version of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The character of King Friday is white on the show but was played by an African-American actor, making this the second piece of pop culture I’ve seen this year featuring a benevolent black monarch (Wakanda forever!).
I guess there’s a third thing. If you’re wondering how she liked it, she was rapt with attention the entire time. Occasionally, though, she leaned over and gave my arm the biggest hug. So, all in all, something definitely clicked in her.
Of course, now she wants me to take her to Bubble Guppies Live. I may need a drink for that one.
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