Children enjoying live theaterThanks to the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and its 36 professional member theaters and partner organizations around the state, young people and their families have been exposed to one week of free and discounted professional theater each March for the past 13 years. Family Week at the Theatre has proven so popular among students and adults there is constant demand for more programming.

To meet the demand, John McEwen, Executive Director, has good news for 2011: “For our 14th year, we’ve expanded programs to encompass all the stages of people’s lives. We’ve continued to keep one week focused on programming for the little ones and their families, but now, because the whole month of March is so full of performances, workshops, and open houses for theater-lovers of all ages, we’ve renamed it the Stages Festival and Family Week at the Theatre.”

The First Theater Experience

While some programming is designed exclusively for preschool children, “anything offered for elementary school children would probably be fine for the little ones,” said McEwen. “The great thing about this program is that the events are designed to introduce young audiences and their families to theater and to help them see it isn’t that different from going to the movies. When a show is designed for young people, no one expects an absolutely perfect audience, but we hope that children will learn to use their library voices, and stay in their seats during the performance if at all possible. Some programs even encourage youngsters to sit on the floor, jump around, and get engaged with the performers. The Stages Festival and Family Week at the Theatre is a wonderful first theatrical experience for everyone.”

Ticket costs for performances vary, with the majority of offerings free or discounted for young people. For example, one theater may be offering one free ticket for a child with the purchase of one adult ticket. Another theater may offer as many as four half-price tickets for children with purchase of one full-price ticket. Yet another might offer free tickets to everyone with pre-registration. A number of theaters are also presenting free voice, dance, improv, and stage workshops for students.

To make sure you can get in to see some of the free or reduced-price performances next month, purchase tickets and/or make reservations as early as possible. For information about performances, dates, times, and ticket information, check The Stages Festival and Family Week at the Theatre website. For more information about New Jersey’s professional theaters, visit

Arline Zatz, from Metuchen, NJ, is the award-winning author of numerous New Jersey guidebooks, including Best Hikes With Children in New Jersey (The Mountaineers).

Photo by David Kelly Crow.