~When I say "deserves less regard," I mean less respect or less attention from the audience. Basically, does the audience get to ignore or, perhaps, make fun of performers if it's just a children's show? Is it alright if the audience becomes disruptive - such as yelling out to the performers, talking out loud or even whispering - if it's a children's show?
~When I say "real theater" I'm talking about going to a building that's got a stage and lights and props and costumes and there's an admissions charge.
~Now to get specific about the show:
What if the show is a group of children who are performing in the living room for their family?
What if the show is a group of children performing in a classroom?
What if the show is a group of children performing in front of their whole school and parents?
Does it matter if they're performing on the floor or on a stage? Should it matter?
What if the costumes or the set aren't fancy?
What if it's an adult troupe performing on the gym floor at a school?
What if it's an adult troupe performing on the grass at a park?
What if it's an adult troupe performing a children's show on a stage in a building that seats 500?
Here's what I think: The quality of the shows are definitely going to change but the quality of the audience behavior should not. I have seen the lack of regard by families who are attending a school production. "It's just the kids," they seem to think as they answer or play with cell phones or allow their younger children to run around. I have seen teachers stand in the back of the gym and carry on not-as-quiet-as-they-think conversations during a children's show put on by adults. For some reason, we've gotten the idea that it's okay to act differently if we're watching just a children's play than if we are dressed up and paying for a seat at the the-uh-tah. It's not okay. Audience members: act like you're dressed up; act like you paid a pretty penny to be able to watch a children's play, no matter where it's being performed or by whom.