All the World's a Stage: Children's Theater in the Bay Area

Ana Picazo - San Francisco Bay Area
May 8, 2012

It's never too early to introduce your little one to the joy of a live performance, but sitting through a two-hour play can be difficult for wriggly little livewires, and elaborate special effects can be downright scary. Fortunately, the Bay Area offers an impressive number of theater companies that cater specifically to children with productions based on favorite children's books and characters, matinee performances and a kid-friendly atmosphere. Here are five great options for your little one's first forays into the wonderful world of theatre:

Handful Players

For a child who has to crane his neck up to look at grown-ups all day, the stage can seem larger (and scarier) than life. That's why kids love seeing performers their own age on stage, and that's why they'll love SF-based Handful Players' musical productions. At this children's theater company, children are involved in all stages of production. Not only do they act alongside professional performers and musicians, they are also involved in designing posters, sewing costumes, building sets, cueing actors, and helping out backstage. The resulting show will prove to your child that even kids can be part of a play, and that just might inspire him to join one himself. What's more, admission is always free for children 18 and under, making it possible for families of all income levels to enjoy quality musical theater.  

The Young Performers Theatre

Based in San Francicsco's historic Fort Mason area, the Young Performers Theatre (YPT) has presented over one hundred mainstage children's productions of classics such as Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, as well as premieres by local playwrights. Don't forget to stop by the Fort Mason Farmer's Market for some yummy Happy Dumplings after catching a Sunday performance!

Berkeley Playhouse

A Berkeley Playhouse performance starts even before the curtains rise. Curious little theater-goers are treated to interactive exhibits that engage the senses—touch, feel, sight, sound—and introduce them to the performance. Through art, writing and movement, they are encouraged to explore and connect with the world they are about to enter. Once the show begins, they will delight to see castmembers reflecting the non-traditional, the multicultural, and the multigenerational—in short, the Bay Area they know and love.

Children's Theatre of Palo Alto

Picnics and performances go hand in had at the Children's Theatre of Palo Alto's Hotdog Suppertime Shows. Held throughout the summer, this set of performances features an all-child cast and is held in the beautiful Secret Garden section of the Palo Alto Children's Library. There are no seats, just an expanse of lawn to spread a blanket or unfold a lawn chair. Families like to arrive early and nosh on packed dinners or purchase hotdogs, hamburgers, and brownies. It's the perfect casual atmosphere for a kid's first theater experience! 

Children's Musical Theater of San Jose

Founded in 1968 to create a community-based children's theater in San Jose, CA, Children's Musical Theater (CMT) is now one of the nation's largest youth musical theater and training program of its kind. They stage productions of well-known children's classics, such as Seussical the Musical, Doctor Dolittle, Rapunzel, Tarzan, and more. Check out their Rising Stars performances, featuring younger performers in less elaborate (but no less enjoyable) productions that are perfect for young audiences.    

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