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Family Values: Tyro Tykes Take on Theater


By Alison Hewitt

Published Oct 1, 2008 8:00 AM

Seven-year-old Tiger Shenkman couldn't wait to go backstage at the Geffen Playhouse to interview a few actors, and if the popularity of the kid reporter program is any indication, your kid can't wait to peer behind the curtain, either.

Photo by Tamar Levine

Pint-size reviewers are the norm at the Geffen's family-friendly Saturday Scene performances. Draped in a special souvenir "press pass," the underage winners of semi-regular raffles get to meet the actors before the show begins.

"She was extraordinarily excited about it," says Tiger's dad, Richard Shenkman. "She loved getting her pass, she loved getting to go backstage beforehand and she loved feeling like she was part of the production."

Kid reporters get the kind of star treatment not normally showered on theater critics. The Geffen gives them four free seats for the performance, snaps their picture and introduces them to the audience before the show. That's on top of the preshow cast meet-and-greet, a free T-shirt and — coolest of all — seeing the review they write in the program at the next Saturday Scene performance.

The rookie reporters adore the attention and seeing their work in print, says Debra Pasquerette, the education director. Although she suggests questions for the shy ones, many take their duties seriously and research the performers online.

"Kids are coming in now with their notebooks and their questions and they'll say, 'Actually, I've read about so-and-so, and I was wondering specifically about blank,'" Pasquerette says. "And coming to Saturday Scene makes them less intimidated by theater. They feel like coming to a live performance is part of who they are, not something that's just for adults."

The kid reporter series also boosts confidence by showing kids that they can talk to the people on stage like friends, and encourages critical thinking when the youthful reviewers settle down to type up their piece. Tiger, already a regular at the Geffen, was especially emboldened by her press tour.

"She seemed to know more about what was going on than some of the adult patrons," Pasquerette says. "At another performance, she told me, 'If you want me to, I can write a review of this.'"

Now that's confidence.

Kid Reporter series. Select Saturdays throughout the '08-'09 season. Geffen Playhouse. 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Tickets: $10-$15. Details on signing up to win a free kid reporter slot at For more information, call (310) 208-5454 or visit