If live theater has a healthy future, it’s largely thanks to organizations such as Columbus Children’s Theatre and CATCO Is Kids. It’s well established that these local troupes have started many kids on the path toward professional thespianism. But it’s also likely that they started many others on the path toward a lifetime of theatergoing. CATCO Is Kids’ role in creating future audience members was on display last week at a preview performance of The Cat in the Hat. Before Dr. Seuss’s mischievous feline appeared, director Joe Bishara talked to the viewers—most of them very young students on a class field trip—to make sure they understood what was expected of them. Bishara began by asking if anyone could tell him the difference between a play and a movie. After a girl explained that plays have live actors, Bishara asked the viewers to list three things they could do to show those actors they were paying attention. Various students came up with laughing and applauding at the proper moments, and being silent the rest of the time. Throughout the following play, the kids’ teachers made sure they remembered their instructions, responding to the slightest infraction with a shush or a whispered warning. But the adults didn’t have to do much, as the actors had no trouble holding the students’ attention. Adapted by Katie Mitchell from the classic Dr. Seuss tale, the play is about what happens when an unusual cat in a striped hat barges in on a brother and sister while their mother is away. The siblings are bored because it’s raining and they can’t go out and play, but the cat shows them they can have plenty of fun inside. The only problem is that his definition of fun involves activities that could make quite a mess if things go wrong. The kids’ pet fish repeatedly warns them of the danger, but the cat proceeds to turn the household upside down with help from his jovial companions, Thing 1 and Thing 2. Due to strict rules that all Seuss adaptations must follow, the play uses the same brief, rhyming language that appears in the book. Director Bishara and his cast pad out the whimsical tale with Velcro-aided tricks and extended chases. The cast is led by two young adults who’ve been putting their talent to good use as CATCO acting apprentices: Japheal Bondurant as the magical cat and Emily Turner as the fearful fish. All of the other cast members are barely older than their intended viewers. Kelan Huffman and Krystyn Norris play the siblings, while agile eighth-graders Olivia Poling and Grace Burkhart play Thing 1 and Thing 2. Seeing the youngsters having fun onstage could well inspire a few members of the play’s audience to take the theatrical plunge themselves someday. Others, hopefully, will remember how much fun they had as viewers and decide it’s an experience they want to repeat throughout their lives. Note: Columbus’s other kid-oriented troupe, Columbus Children’s Theatre, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It will be honored—along with a host of other groups and individuals—at the Central Ohio Theatre Roundtable’s annual awards night. The event begins at 7 p.m. Sunday, following a 6 p.m. reception, at the Jewish Community Center, 1125 College Ave. Tickets are $15, $10 for members. For more information, visit www.theatre-roundtable.org.