Ottawa

Have a baby? There's a new play in Ottawa just for them

The curtain is rising on a theatrical production designed specifically for babies this week in Ottawa.

Infants as young as 3 months old can enjoy the show

A non-verbal play specifically designed for babies features bubbles and colourful balls at The Great Canadian Theatre Company. (Jonathan DuPaul/CBC)

Babies as young as three months old are being brought to an Ottawa theatre house to watch a production they've waited their entire lifetimes — short as they've been, so far — to see.

With bubbles in the air and silk scarves twirling overhead, the play One Thing Leads to Another is crafted specifically for the infant crowd.

"The play is a way of sharing with babies that we understand them," said Maja Ardal, who designed and stars in the play, along with another actor, Malindi Ayienga.

"We start to sing. We start to move. We're offering them the art of performance."

Actress Malindi Ayienga says the best reaction she gets is when babies jump to their feet from uncontrollable excitement during the play, which is called One Thing Leads to Another. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC )

The show opened Wednesday at The Great Canadian Theatre Company and continues its run Friday through Sunday. 

It's also open to the babies' parents, of course, who help the little ones find a place on the floor next to plush animals perched on colourful pillows.

Before the play begins, its two actors stand at the front, smiling and waiting. As soon as the babies' gazes fall on them, the actors gently wave as an introduction.

Playwright Maja Ardal says One Thing Leads to Another uses lots of colourful objects, movement and singing to engage babies. 0:33

"The first thing we do is we invite the babies to trust us that we really do have something to share," Ardal said.

"I come slowly toward a baby and give her lots of space to examine me, and then I invite her maybe to play with an object or to observe something … then we start to bond."

We drop by the GCTC where they're staging a play for babies as young as three months. 7:30

The non-verbal play tells a simple story about how one thing causes another. For example, the actresses drink a sip of water, which leads them to sigh with relief.

The babies' eyes bolt open when sheets of sky blue material float above their heads, gently enveloping them.

Sheets of blue float above the babies' heads at some points in the production. (Jonathan DuPaul/CBC)

Their little heads swing wildly from side-to-side, as they try to follow the actresses, who pop up from behind black boards.

Sometimes the babies fall asleep, other times they demand food, or start to cry or giggle uncontrollably — but all their responses are welcomed, Ardal said. 

"You know there is no such thing as a wrong audience, or a wrong sound, however loud or noisy or disruptive it is," she said. "We handle everything."

Suzane Thomas says her seven-month-old son Pascal Joseph's response to the play One Thing Leads to Another was "really interesting to see." 0:37

Babies give standing ovations 

For many of the babies, it's probably their first-ever theatre experience. 

The best response is when they actually rise up from uncontrollable excitement, Ayienga said.

"They literally get on their feet because they don't know what else to do," she said, comparing their reaction to a standing ovation, among the highest forms of flattery in theatre.

"Most people do it [because] they think it's polite, [but] babies have no idea what theatre etiquette is," she said. 

Actress Malindi Ayienga plays with some babies after the show ends. It's an important part of the production, she says. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"So for them to [stand] … in the middle of your storytelling … for them to just get on their feet, it's a pretty incredible feeling."

Fifteen-month-old Natalie Moleiro sat on her mother's lap during the performance, but would often bolt up trying to touch the bubbles and material that floated past her. 

Sometimes she burst into laughter, and other times she looked perplexed, her mother Lindsay Robinson said. 

"Her attention was completely captivated, which is hard to do for more than 10 minutes," she said.

Fifteen-month-old Natalie Moleiro smiled and laughed during the performance. (Jonathan DuPaul/CBC)

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