I often think of the Cat Steven's song Where Do The Children Play, and it makes me melancholy, though the real answer should be wherever they wish. Give any child a blanket and a stick and watch it become a fort, or cave, or cape, or a stage.
I was a mere six and a half years old when I became a thespian in a college musical production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. My older brother was supposed to do it but he got the measles, and a brat was born. Not to be too hard on myself but the character was a bratty rug rat of a kid running around this cruise ship causing loads of trouble. So. Typecasting. My favorite moment of the show was also the most terrifying. A character is asleep in a deck-chair under a newspaper when another character motions me silent then mimes what I should do with my wooden sword. Each night when I poked this actor he exploded in a loud frenzy and chased me offstage. I knew it was coming but he scared me to death every single time. What a great world was this place called theatre. That college theatre showed me that there are many layers to a life in performance arts. Also it didn't hurt that the chorus girls would buy me ice cream cones. So, heaven. Shortly thereafter in a theatre class for children I was introduced to the concept that imagination is the key to acting, performing, even writing and directing.
I recall that part of the exercise was a large invisible boulder we had to figure out a way around, over, or under. I chose to go through the rock; after all it was invisible. I already had a rich imagination - theatre just enlarged it for me.
I met and became friends with Ben Vereen in the early 70's when he was playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. He was quite charming and quoted as saying "The theatre is my church". Funny because I've often thought of church as my theatre. We did Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at my University Baptist Church in State College. One thing I really loved about this great big sandbox called theatre is how big the character of play was. On or offstage just being around theatres brings out the element of play as play. And then, BAM, theatre as life. Both the casts of Jesus Christ Superstar, and Hair, got together and marched from Broadway to Times Square to sing anti-war songs and speak out against the war in Vietnam.
The experience of being given a space and told to play with it stays with me to this day. It's still that imagination thing. It's mostly about our oldest shared experiences; story-telling, and how we strive to make that part of our lives. In my case, again and again. Acting, clowning, singing or storytelling; I often return to my roots in the theatre. It makes me feel grateful.
This sanctuary is so much larger than all of us it often inspires a kind of hushed awe. Don't forget that it is also a theatre of sorts to play in. With a stage, lighting, sound, audience or congregation, and even performers, we are all players, are we not? So bring your imagination here to this magic space and join us in play; then take that and apply it to your situation, if you can, because play can be very good for you.
And if someone asks where do the children play? Perhaps we can answer, any darn place they please.