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Why Children should be Introduced to Theatre

The curtain goes up. The performance starts. Music. Energy. Lights. Applause. Cheers. Adulations. The curtain goes down. Ah, the life of a performer. It’s quite a rush. But there’s also the downside: a low-paying, highly competitive job market, the short shelf-life of a career that can be based on appearance alone, and the horrible low self-esteem garnered from rejection after rejection.

With such a ruthless and unforgiving environment, why would anyone choose to introduce their children to the world of theatre? Well, to be somewhat cliche, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the lessons learned along the path.

As a theatre arts teacher, I used to tell my students that theatre is the only one of the creative and performing arts that is all-encompassing. To understand, act, or write a script, you have to use your language skills. To design and build a set, you must understand algebra and geometry.

To light a set, you must have an understanding of science, specifically the nature of electricity and the behavior of light waves. To truly dissect a character and how that character interacts with his or her surroundings, you must delve into history and sociology.

The list goes on: music, fashion, public relations, graphic design, and even physical education. (Look at some of the dancers, although I call them athletes, that the nation currently idolizes on television and in the movies.)

However, probably the best benefit of introducing your child to theatre is the social interaction and personal presentational skills that he or she will learn. The theatre is probably one of the most social arenas there are in this world.

Aside from the competitive nature of auditions, when young actors are trying out for a production, the majority of a student actor’s life is made up of exercises that work on connecting with one another on very basic, personal levels. Other theatre games ask students to get up and present themselves in some way to the rest of the class. Still other activities force young actors to work together to solve a problem.

Hmmm… collaborative processes, project presentations, and out-of-the-box problem solving… don’t those sound like resume-worthy skills that might help a young adult in the corporate world or at the game of life in general? No doubt, they are.

Many parents seem to think that introducing their children to theatre is going to somehow turn them into a starving artist. And it is true, some children are “bit by the theatre bug,” as an ex-teacher of mine used to say. But most of my students have taken what they’ve learned in theatre and applied it to life, to business, and even to family matters.

So, maybe Shakespeare was right. “All the world IS a stage.” So, wouldn’t it be nice for your children to learn the rules of that stage early on? Because if “one man in his time plays many parts,” I want to know my lines before my cue…or at least have learned some tricks so that I can improvise.

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