I excitedly ordered the hard-to-find childrenâ€™s book, Sam Pig at the Theatre, part of a British series. Alas, thatâ€™s the last time I trust Amazonâ€™s claim of age range. It is not for children 2-4. In fact, Iâ€™d likely read it to a five or six year old. It does, however, answer the question â€œwhat is theatre?â€ in story format.
Sam Pig and his family are invited to a play on Midsummerâ€™s Eve. They join the rest of the farm animals in the horseâ€™s barn for a home-made performance of Cinderella. Now, hereâ€™s where it gets exciting. Unlike much of live adult theatre today, the audience gets to participate. In the ball scene, for example, they all dance. Sam Pig himself gets to dance with Cinderella, who runs away only to leave behind a little straw slipper. The Sow tells him he must try the slipper on everyone in the barn to find out who it fits. When he protests, she reprimands him that â€œThis is theatre and itâ€™s all pretence.â€ And so he plays along.
The book ends with Sam and his family trundling home.
â€œSo thatâ€™s a theatre!â€ said Brock. â€œIt was grand! And you, Sam Pig, were the Prince!â€
Sam said nothing. All his thoughts were on the little piglet called Cinderella whom he had kissed my the light of the turnip lanterns.
â€œBut itâ€™s all pretence,â€ murmured Ann, and the others echoed, â€œYes. All pretence.â€
This, of course, delightedly explains how actors become actors: they fall in love with the cross between fantasy and reality. It may not be a picture-book, but itâ€™s still a good read, and very appropriate for starting a discussion about theatre, pretend, real life, and stories.