The Magic of Theatre

Holiday fun at Other Voices Theatre in Frederick, Maryland. (Courtesy)

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you or your children just sang “SpongeBob SquarePants,” you might be inclined to attend Other Voices Theatre’s production of “Spongebob The Musical” this August.

One of many family-friendly theatre options in Frederick County, the nonprofit’s run of the adaptation of a popular children’s television show sparks a timely conversation on what kids and adults alike can gain from viewing favorite characters and stories in a more up-close-and-personal way.

In the age of screens, where Mickey Mouse, Elsa and everybody’s favorite sea sponge are available at the click of a button, seeing — or even performing in — a live stage show can stimulate the imagination.

“It is different than TV,” explains “Spongebob” Director Steve Cairns. “It is different than movies because it is live and you get to interact with it. I think that [kids] come away with an interest and love for theatre, and then they also come away with an interest of, ‘Hey, I can do that. That would be fun to get up there and do that.’ It is not just an interest in seeing it. It may spark a little interest in someone wanting to do it.”

When talking with others, Justin Kiska, president and managing director of Frederick’s Way Off Broadway (WOB) dinner theatre, says he always encourages anyone to take their kids to the theatre. “It is just a great introduction to a whole new kind of entertainment,” he says. “They can learn so much. Even going to a theatre—it is an occasion. It is a chance for them to get out and feel like an adult. They can get dressed up. They can learn theatre etiquette. It is just a great all-around experience regardless of what the show is and where you are going.”

Cairns is grateful that Frederick has a thriving theatre community that kids can access. “I think Frederick does a really nice job of making sure that they are providing entertainment for all ages of people, and they don’t leave the kids out,” he says.

Kiska agrees with having accessible programming, adding, “You always want something fun that everybody in the family is going to enjoy.”

In addition to family holiday productions, WOB does an annual two-week summer musical theatre camp for kids. Participants learn how to put on an hour-long show, rehearse and perform for friends and family. Some of WOB’s previous shows include “Frozen Jr.,” “High School Musical Jr.,”and “Mean Girls Jr.”

In Frederick, families sometimes even have the opportunity to perform together at local theatres.
Other Voices does two family friendly shows — one in the summer so families can be involved.

“I love when families do theatre together,” Cairns says. “It is just more fun.” Past summer productions at his theatre, like “Seussical: The Musical” and “Matilda,” have included parents and their children in the cast.

But even if they don’t perform themselves, children getting to see live stage productions is important to local theatre organizers.

Kiska often hears from guests about their theatre experiences. “So many times people will tell us that when they brought their kids to one of our [children’s] shows it was the first time they had ever gone and seen a live stage show,” he says. “It was really the introduction for them into theatre. Now we are at the point where some of those people who were kids coming to see our [children’s] shows are now coming to our main stage and bringing their children to see the family entertainment that we offer. We see how important it is to introduce kids to theatre because that is the future audience.”

And it’s all the more reason to create programming that caters to young audiences.

Cairns recalls his parents dragging him to see Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado” when he was 10 years old, and he was not into it. “I want to make sure that kids have the opportunity and access to see shows that they are interested in,” he says. “It is an opportunity for people to bring their kids to see theatre and get them to enjoy coming to the theatre, and it is also an opportunity for us to grow young actors, too.” Cairns is hopeful that shows like “Spongebob the Musical” will encourage more kids in the area to
consider participating in performing arts or going to shows.

“It is [a] new show,” he says. “It is something that Frederick has not done before. It has been done around the area but not in Frederick… It definitely will draw kids and families that don’t normally come to theatre.”

On the Marquee
Here’s what’s up next at WOB and Other Voices Theatre:
Aug. 4-20 | “SpongeBob The Musical,” Other Voices Theatre, Frederick location
Nov. 3-11 | “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” WOB
Dec. 2-23 | “Santa Claus: The Musical,” WOB
Aug 2024 (dates TBD) | “Newsies,” Other Voices Theatre