Bryan J. Albertson
“It builds leadership.” “It helps you understand yourself.” “It helps establish teamwork.” I know, the topic of the day is how team sports and athletics help you learn about yourself and teach valuable life skills, right? No, not really, while they do help with these skill sets, they are not the only way to learn them.
Here is another story; first time in combat, and you are in a leadership position. You have never been in this scenario before, and you know your soldiers are looking to you for an example. You have trained for this, but then again, training doesn’t always cover everything. So, what do you do? Easy, act like you know what you are doing. This, by the way, was precisely the situation I found myself in during my first deployment to Iraq and the Army. I had been an athlete in high school and college. I also had 14 years of Army training but what I fell back upon was a time in high school when I was thrown into a play at the last minute to fill the role of a minor cast member who had become ill just before the show. The advice from my director was to just go on stage and act like you know what you are doing.
Theater Arts or Drama or whatever terminology you want to apply brings more to the table than just getting up in front of people. The life skills you can learn from school theater at any level or from community theater are important and can help you develop a unique perspective on life and how to deal with the everyday struggles. Just like what an athlete learns from the football team, the actor/actress or crew member can also learn the same things that will help guide them later in life.
The Stage Manager is every bit as important as the Captain of the Team, both learn leadership skills, and both lead in stressful situations. Both are looked to when a split-second decision needs to be made. “Do we go for two?” or “Do we use a different entrance?”, both are decisions made by the leader on-site and both teach leadership skills and traits that will stay with you for life. Is the on-court decision stressful? Yes, but no more stressful than making sure the scene goes right when everything else is going wrong.
Working as a team member is an essential quality in life that is learned at a young age. Working as a team member is something that every cast and crew must learn if they are to be successful. Many long hours are spent learning choreography as a group where even if one person is off time, then nothing works. The same goes for the endless time spent painting sections of scenery while making sure they all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Time management, initiative, creative problem solving, even commitment and dedication are all things that can be discovered and instilled and developed while being the member of a theater group. These skills are something that will help anybody when they are older. It doesn’t have to be the drastic example at the beginning, but then again it may turn out to be something even more important that.