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Hartford Stage Launches Pilot Program That Offers Free Babysitting To Patrons

Hartford Stage
Hartford Stage coordinated its free babysitting program with the play "Cry It Out," which looks at the lives and struggles of four new parents.

For many parents, a night on the town might seem like a pipe dream. At the top of the list of reasons for that is – babysitting. Now, if you have a family member nearby who is willing and able to watch the kids, you’re all set. But for the rest of us, finding and affording a capable babysitter may be close to impossible.

“Boy, I’d really like to go to the theater, but it’s such a hassle” is how Hartford Stage Artistic Director Melia Bensussen puts it. “I have to find a sitter, I have to figure out all of the logistics and the running time and so forth, and add all the time, and then pay for the sitter. So theater becomes unaffordable in this way.”

Playdate, a joint initiative between Hartford Stage and Christ Church Cathedral aims to give busy parents an affordable night out. Ticket holders can drop off their children, ages 2 to 10, at Christ Church Cathedral, which is directly across from the theater. The service is free, and Bensussen said the babysitters, who are vetted and background-checked by Christ Church, will make it fun for the kids.

“During their play date, younger children can play with age-appropriate toys, they can do coloring, and older children can enjoy movies and board games,” said Bensussen. “It just gives parents and guardians a chance to relax and enjoy a theater performance.”

Bensussen said the goal is to get more young parents to the theater.

“Caregivers of children are an audience we’d like to have participate more freely in our events and in our audiences,” said Bensussen.” Not having a simple way to have the kids taken care of when they come to the theater might be a barrier to them coming to the play.”

Bensussen said it’s fitting that the launch of Playdate coincides with a performance of the play “Cry It Out.”

“This wonderful, funny, 90-minute play that is actually about parents struggling with how their lives are transformed by having newborns.”

Tailored babysitting for theater patrons is a new phenomenon, and so far only a handful of theaters offer such a service. Bensussen hopes to offer the Playdate babysitting program on a more regular basis later this season.

To register for Playdate, go to Hartfordstage.org/cry-it-out. 

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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