I work as a bartender at a nationally known, professional repertory theatre. We do not allow children under the age of six into the performances, a fact that is stated both on the tickets and on a sign at the door. In practice, however, we rarely see children under seven or eight attending shows. One day I was working behind the bar when I noticed a little boy walking across the lobby, holding hands with his parents. He looked no more than five or six, and I remember hoping that he was a lot older than he looked. Nope. During preshow, he refused to sit down, talked loudly and continuously and tried to climb over the backs of the seats. When the houselights dimmed to half and the pre-show announcement (“Please turn off your cell phones” etc.) began, he began shrieking and crying. The house manager, wisely deducing that this was going to be a problem, went to talk to the parents, who tell him that the boy is A) afraid of the dark, and B) sensitive to loud noises. And what play was this, you ask? Hamlet. A very long, complex, angst-ridden play containing nighttime scenes, a ghost, murder, a whole lot of yelling, and, in this particular production, gunshots and sirens (these last two, by the way, are warned of in the promotional material).
The house manager persuaded the parents that the boy was perhaps better off not watching the show, and the father spent the entire 3 hours of the play walking the boy around the lobby. From watching them, I think the little boy might have been developmentally delayed, since he behaved more like a toddler than a kindergartner. I felt sorry for the poor kid, since even if he was delayed, his parents were obviously a lot slower. 0528-10