Ten unexpected AMAZING benefits of children performing in theatre.
As a theatre teacher and director, I’ve realized some exceptional perks for children (and their parents) who are involved in theatre! Here are some priceless benefits:
Patience and Respect. Standing quietly backstage is no easy task, especially for children who are full of butterflies and heart flutters. They wait patiently, in anticipation for their turn on stage and discover that it’s respectful to remain quiet as they don’t want to distract the actors who are on stage. Naturally, there are children who do need repetitive reminders to mute their excitement, but when they do, it’s a huge accomplishment! Children having fun, while being patient and respectful is a beautiful sight!
Facing your fears. It’s a surprising fact, yet hauntingly true, public speaking is more feared than death by most U.S. citizens. Fear of rejection is simply part of life, yet it’s manageable and it can be very rewarding for those who learn to face this fear. Theatre gives children an opportunity to face a crowd, speak in front of them, sing a song or two and perhaps even make them laugh. They are children, therefore they are embraced by a supportive audience, one that giggles, applauds and encourages. A child can forget a line or two and still be unconditionally loved by their audience. The hope is that a comfort level is being established within them and tools are being learned, so they can have a healthy, lifelong relationship with facing the crowd. Applause!
Be yourself. In the theatre, there’s a place for everyone. There is hardly anyone too eccentric, or too out there to be in the theatre. Uniqueness is embraced and I’ve never seen a child excluded from companionship while amongst theatre kids. Even a child who chooses to be a loner is treated with acceptance. Quite frankly, the freedom to be oneself, especially for a child is thrilling and can be a place of comfort for kids who feel like they don’t quite fit in.
Flamboyant and loud personality? Great! Can you think of another extra-curricular where children are encouraged to be over the top and speak with lots of volume? Much of the time during play rehearsals I ask the children to speak louder! Be big and you will be rewarded with applause and laughter! Theatre gives the energetic performer a platform to let go and be free, which can be exhilarating. While most of the time children are reminded to be quiet, theatre gives them an outlet. I’ve seen happiness spill out of a child when they are allowed to be big and loud, and it’s captivating.
Responsibility. Children learn early on in rehearsals that knowing their lines is proven very valuable. When they don’t take responsibility for their part, it can be embarrassing and negatively affect the flow of rehearsal. They become part of a team and everyone is counting on one another to be prepared. Although, this push into responsibility may be difficult and involve hard work, it’s an incredible lifelong lesson and tool.
Adios technology! So, yes, while technically there are lights, sound effects, microphones and speakers, children have nothing to do with these technical aspects. Thankfully, they are experiencing old fashioned, human interaction while enriching their social skills! In addition to interacting with each other, their teachers and directors, there is a live audience to be had. In addition, there is the common rule of no phones or video games backstage or at rehearsals, which in my opinion deserves a standing ovation.
Short attention span-no more! Television has become the most popular form of entertainment and why wouldn’t it? Children see a new image every 3 to 4 seconds while watching T.V. Also, the obsession with video games and social media additionally inhibit a child’s focus. Satisfyingly, while doing a play, children are focused for over an hour. In fact, studies show that participating in theatre has the potential to lengthen attention span permanently.
Happy Theatre Teachers. Generally, a theatre instructor/director doesn’t just fall in to the position, they chase it and catch it with a celebratory cheer and a sigh. For any teacher and or actor, it’s a privilege to teach children’s theatre. It’s a safe assumption that your child is being coached and directed by teachers who are thrilled to be doing what they are doing. Theatre can be a cozy place for many children with teachers who care and show enthusiasm for each child’s unique special talents.
Improves Education. It’s no secret, as any research savvy parent can find, children who participate in the arts not only do better academically but they also have higher test scores. The amount of longitudinal studies are astounding and quite clear, the arts are a vital part of the developing brain. While theatre may seem difficult to fit into a child’s already busy schedule, it’s a valuable option that usually lasts just a few months and can really make a difference.
Reading and Language. Texting is not exactly the most artful and educated communication. Constant abbreviations and slang terms don’t necessarily glorify the beauty of language. Reading books and studying words doesn’t seem to grip children with excitement anymore. Today, children have a million other entertaining options at their fingertips. The great news is performing in a play involves reading, yes reading and memorizing lines, much of the time these lines contain unique language!
Photo: Plano Children's Theatre