Personal space: Kids need it, too
Says author of Plan-B Theatre’s new children’s play, Presenting: Super Cat and Reptile Robot.
My husband and I moved from the Bay Area to Salt Lake City four years ago because we have two giant (in all ways possible) kids and there just wasn’t enough room for them to spread out in Berkeley. And in Utah we have free babysitters (aka family)!
As a playwright, I was immediately welcomed into the Salt Lake theatre community and within six months was invited to join The Lab at Plan-B. The ﬁrst play I took my kids to in Utah was Plan-B’s Free Elementary School Tour of Melissa Larson’s The Edible Complex, which blew our collective socks oﬀ.
Fast forward a year, and I was taking my kids to see the next such oﬀering: River.Swamp.Cave.Mountain by Elaine Jarvik.
I was struck by the subjects each of the playwrights tackled (eating disorders and death and grief, respectively) for elementary students. A pet peeve of mine is how often entertainment for kids is watered down. So when Jerry Rapier, Plan-B’s artistic director, asked if I would like to write for the Free Elementary School Tour, I immediately said yes!
I knew I wanted to talk about consent, specifically the permission we grant to others to engage with our bodies. Not something we typically talk about with kids…or teens…or even adults.
I’ve been to countless birthday parties, holiday gatherings and family events where family members that have very little regular contact with my kiddos expect hugs and kisses from them. My daughter is very speciﬁc about whom she will and won’t hug. It’s been an uphill battle for my family to just let her be herself. I’ve noticed, however, that the more we let her guide us, the more she feels in charge of herself, and the more she’s actually inclined to give hugs.
I understand that feelings can be hurt when hugs are denied, but isn’t it better to raise children who feel they’re in charge of their own bodies? I remember being ordered to hug distant relatives who creeped me out, whether or not I was on board with it. I was also grabbed or touched throughout my teen and young adult years by strangers. I didn’t think I had a say in the matter, so I didn’t speak up; it was just how things were. Now that I’m a parent, a neon sign in my brain ﬂashes, “I do not want this for my kids.”
So how could I use all of this and write about consent in an age-appropriate way?
Tickling came to mind, probably because I spent most of my childhood trying (and failing) to not get tickled by anyone, ever. And then I thought about a game of saving the world that my kids play pretty much around the clock. I asked them for permission to use that game, added a magic remote, tickling, and consent, and it became the world of Presenting: Super Cat and Reptile Robot.
My daughter was 10 when I started this project and my son just finished fourth grade, which makes them not only authorities on grades 2-4, but the perfect dramaturgs. The result is a funny, fun, silly, engaging script that encourages imaginative play and makes space for kids to be in charge of their own boundaries and bodies.
Rachel Bublitz returns to Plan-B Theatre, where she previously contributed the monologues “Red” and “Blue” to (In)divisible and the short play “The Final Debate” to Rose Exposed: Breaking News. Her latest, Presenting: Super Cat and Reptile Robot, receives its world premiere as Plan-B’s eighth annual Free Elementary School Tour, serving students in grades 2-4 statewide as a podcast with a study guide and coloring pages, beginning August 25 at planbtheatre.org/