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The moderately-sized city I live in is surprisingly flush with opportunities to experience theatre.

With two high schools, a university, a community theatre, a performing arts center, and an independent theatre company all within extremely close proximity of each other, we are rarely without the option to take in a show.

In particular, one local theatre company puts on a reasonably-priced, large-scale outdoor performance every summer. It's usually a musical that is directed toward kids, and it's usually a pretty high-profile show designed to bring in the numbers.

It's also outdoors.

It's also smack dab in the middle of the hot hot summer.

It's real hot out there, friends. And there are generally LOTS of families trying to get good seats.

It's possible that some people look at this situation and think: "Alright. Let's DO THIS." And that's awesome for them. I'm also guessing those people get super-hyped about Black Friday shopping — which, again, is awesome for them. They're the one getting the sweet deals.

For me, though? Even though I consider myself to be a fairly extroverted person, large city-organized events full of family fun tend to cause me a lot of anxiety. Is it the pressure to have fun? The waiting in line? The overload of people? I don't know. Either way, if I don't go in with a plan, I have a terrible time.  

This year, I had a plan. And we had fun. It was a total win.

1. Bring two adults, a blanket, and an activity.

Regardless of the seating style — whether it's bleachers, a lawn, or actual chairs — bringing a blanket will allow you to save yourself some spots. You can drape the blanket over where you want to sit and people will understand that this is your spot. So, get there early (gates opened an hour before showtime, so that's when we went), claim your spot, and let one of you get comfy. This performance was at a park with a trail, so my husband took the kids on a bike ride while I guarded our blanket. I got to read a book, my kids didn't have to sit around waiting in the heat, and we got great seats.

2. Invest in some insulated drinkware and pack some ice cubes.

We've long realized the importance of packing our own water, but only recently have we invested in insulated water bottles for the kids. Most informal outdoor venues (like parks) allow you to bring a cooler with snacks and drinks, but at the very least you should be able to pack water. Having a little soft cooler with an ice pack and a bag of actual ice cubes is a bonus, since you can refill at a water fountain and cool it down quickly. But at the very least, an insulated bottle will allow your kids to keep their water at a very cold temperature, and will minimize the complaining, even in the blazing heat.

I'd tell you to pack snacks, but that's a very venue-dependent topic. Water is ALMOST always allowed at park functions (or it's provided), but concessions can cause the rules to change. If you can pack snacks, I'd freeze a batch of yogurt tubes or pack crackers - chocolatey things are going to melt alllllll over the place, so save them for the air conditioning.

3. Bring books. For real.

Trust me, I know the thought of bringing books to a play sounds contradictory… but an outdoor show is a far different beast than a regular play in a traditional theatre. The lights don't go down, the kids aren't expected to be as quiet, and there is a LOT of visual stimulation going on around. These factors can make it extremely hard to concentrate for some kids. Giving them an up-close option for entertainment (without handing them a screen) will let them refresh their brains a little bit, keep them sitting, and let them get back to the show when they're ready.

Being able to see live performance is such an important part of life. Theatre, dance, music, storytelling — the arts help us keep in touch with our humanity.

We can't let a hot day and a gigantic crowd get in the way of that, can we?

Lauren Bonk

Lauren Bonk is a freelance copywriter, editor, and blogger who's been wrangling children and words since 2010. She high-fives her husband frequently, probably drinks too much coffee, and sighs nostalgically over 90's music on a regular basis. Learn more about Lauren at ...

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