Think your little one has to be the center-of-attention type or a real ham to sign him or her up for children’s theatre? Think again. For as a former drama instructor who has worked for several children’s theatres throughout the U.S. I can attest that though those types of “future star personalities” are prevalent, there are also a lot more parents with other types of children who ask about signing them up for drama class with the opening lines of:
· “My child is in the second grade and has yet to get invited to any birthday parties or make any friends… Can theatre help her open up more and make friends?”
· “My child is bored all the time and needs to find constant things to keep him interested and engaged… Will theatre help keep him focused on something for longer than a few days?”
· “My child is so shy she is overwhelmed by the other children in her fourth grade class. Her teachers say she never speaks up for herself or wants to answer any questions… Can theatre help her come out of her shell and overcome this shyness?”
· “My child is having a hard time learning to read… Could theatre help him?”
My answer to all of these questions is always the same, “Yes!” For children’s theatre is a lot more than just “putting on a show.” Children can learn valuable life skills doing theatre that they can use at school or take into any career later on in life. Acting classes, theatre-type games (especially improv), and being involved in the creation of putting on a full theatrical production teaches students not only how to “act” in a play, they all also:
Instill confidence in how to move around in your body overall, which some children (especially the younger ones), are often still learning how to do in daily life.
- Give children a way to interact with others while pretending to be someone or something other than themselves which is often less scary to do—which in turn can help them “come out of their shells” and interact with others better outside of theatre class.
- Keep children focused on a variety of things that keep changing while they see a story go from the pages of a script to a fully developed, live performance involving things like actors, costumes, props, and sets along the way.
- Help children with both reading and writing as they read, learn, and memorize lines.
- Teach children how to work with others in a group while collaborating on a common goal as they learn that each person’s participation is just as important as all the others involved, thus creating comradery.
It is also important to know that most children’s theatre directors are pretty flexible when it comes to including children at their own comfort level in a production. I had children who wanted to be on stage yet not have to say any lines, so I always allowed “extra,” non-speaking roles just for that purpose in all my productions. I also had a few children who wanted to sign up (or their parents wanted them to), but they didn’t want to be on stage at all. So they became “prop masters” or “set builders” and still got to participate in all the fun drama games and rehearsals (thus reaping the above said benefits) without having any pending worries of experiencing stage fright on opening night. Ask your local children’s theatre instructor if he or she offers such arrangements for your little ones’ involvement, for I bet most either do or will.
Give children’s theatre a try… your child will benefit from it in many hidden ways.