“We don’t discourage that in this show,” actress Eli Brickey said. “It’s up to us to figure out how to handle it.”
The target audience for The Box Show is children ages 1 to 3. The 30-minute production is the first CCT show aimed specifically at children of this age.
Shows specifically for babies and toddlers have been performed in other American cities for the past decade, artistic director Bill Goldsmith said.
Eli Brickey (seated) and Megan Louia in Columbus Children’s Theatre’s The Box Show
To that end, the show is short, performed on the floor and has no dialogue.
The “plot,” so to speak, revolves around a family that has just moved. Stacks of cardboard boxes provide a chance for a young child — played by Brickey — to explore.
Soon, she has an imaginary friend — played by Megan Louia — and together, they find all sorts of things to do with the boxes.
“There is a lot of sensory stimulation,” Goldsmith said.
Brickey said that although she doesn’t speak, she tries to engage the toddlers with eye contact and gestures. The theater has performed the show in several preschools throughout the area.
“I look at them, and I’m pointing to props and objects,” she said. “I’m letting them know that you can talk with us. They shout out things they see. The beauty of this piece is words don’t need to be spoken. It’s human instinct, the ability to connect without speaking.”
Each show can accommodate about 60 people, and the admission is family-friendly.
In Atlanta, the Alliance Theatre presented similar shows about five years ago and now has a series —“Theatre for the Very Young” — that puts on five different shows a year.
“The popularity is rampant; the demand keeps building,” said Rosemary Newcott, Alliance’s artistic director for youth and families. “What sells it best is word of mouth.”
Brickey, who has become an enthusiastic ambassador of the genre, said she hopes the concept will catch on in Columbus.
“It’s really wonderful to interact with the children throughout the show,” she said. “It’s a fun experience for them — and for us as well.”