The earlier you expose your child to theatre, the better, says Ruby Lim-Yang. The gamine co-Founder and Artistic Director of ACT 3 International and a stalwart of local children’s theatre continues: “Drama helps the very young explore and venture, drawing from their world and learning about the world around them.”
That’s why, despite the fact that they may come bearing binkies and blankets, ACT 3 Drama Academy offers classes (parent-accompanied) for children as young as 18 to 36 months. “At this age group, it is more about active parental participation based on the belief that a special parent-child bond can enhance learning,” explains Ruby.
Beyond the larva stage, theatre and drama remain an integral part of a child’s overall development.
With this in mind, ACT 3 International’s upcoming September production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favourites is chosen specially for the young: toddlers to preschoolers.
Although this is its fourth run in Singapore, the production retains a timeless appeal and continues to attract audiences, thanks to Eric Carle’s engaging stories and the creative use of black light staging.
“Pre-school children are a unique audience. They are at the brink of discovering everything, accepting everything, and open to suspending disbelief. Because they are open and receptive, work for pre-school children have to be sensitive to these innate traits of their learning,” says Ruby.
In The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favourites, black light theatre is used to harness the young audience’s natural curiousity. A masterpiece crafted from the use of UV lighting, the production features a dark stage, black curtains and fluorescent costumes to create a magical visual feast. “‘Black light’ enables puppets and props to appear on stage as if they are animated on their own. It’s quite a fascinating concept and gives both children (and adults) a sense of wonderment.”
“I remember back in 1984, when I co-founded ACT 3, there weren’t many good spaces for children’s theatre, no established funding, no ticketed shows, and hardly a theatre-going culture to speak of,” muses Ruby.
These days, the situation is flipped. “It is quantity more than quality and a lack of differentiation between family entertainment and Children’s Theatre,” Ruby says. “Audiences are a mix of parents who want to keep their children occupied and entertained and those who are in constant search of quality Children’s Theatre that will fire imagination and creativity.”
Parents in the know, and who grew up either watching or taking part in the company’s shows, will recognise ACT 3 International as one of those with quality productions for children, especially those in the preschool age group. “We are experiencing a whole generation of ‘children of the children’ we impacted with our work,” says Ruby.