Stagestruck: Kids & Theater
Curtain up, light the lights! Kids hit personal heights when they take the stage. The Delaware Valley's a great place to get kids involved in the dramatic arts — click here for a list of area theater classes. Here, MomSpeaker EJ Curran shares nine great reasons she encourages her troupe to trod the boards.
Live theater is one of those things that makes me me. So much of who I am and what I believe in goes back to something I saw on stage. When I attend a live theatrical production, my whole being feels moved, like I've had a spiritual connection to the stage and everything that happens on it. Maybe that's because I dreamed of being onstage myself as a child but was too shy to push myself to be involved. I was first inspired to love and appreciate live theater when my father took me to see Cathy Rigby starring as Peter Pan when I was 6 years old. My whole life since, I've been drawn to the art of live theater. Whether it's the musically and visually beautiful Beauty & the Beast or the complicated and amazing puppetry of War Horse, I find something completely real and meaningful in every show.
I've had my children involved in a local live theater group for the last three years for these reasons. I'm not pushing theater as a career goal on any one of them (most of them want to be scientists), but I do think that the act of being on stage and being involved in theater teaches them so much about themselves and life. When kids play make-believe at home, it's so important. Theater is a great place to hone a ton of skills while kids find meaning in playing make-believe.
Why theater rocks for kids
- Theater improves children's ability to listen, communicate and engage in dialogue and understanding with other people. Everyone must do this in life, and theater is a great place to nurture this skill from a young age. Lauren Gunderson writes in her article "How Theater for Young People Could Save the World": "…so much of the toxicity in this world comes from a collective draining of empathy. We don't understand each other, and we don't want to. But theater invites us — no, forces us — to empathize."
- Theater allows kids a place to practice public speaking. It teaches courage! I was still mortified about giving a speech in front of a class in high school. My kids are so comfortable on stage that I know with continued participation in theater, that likely won't be an issue for them.
- Theater encourages literacy and education. In many cases, it teaches history. Kids have to pay attention, read and remember scripts, make quick decisions and movements and learn and practice language skills. Why does a character say this? What does this line mean? When did this character live and what did they go through? Theater encourages the asking and answering of all kinds of questions.
- Theater encourages practice, which is important if you're to get better at anything in life.
- Theater brings children together to accomplish a task. Play dates are OK, but it sure is amazing when kids come together to create something as a group. Every individual involved brings something to the table.
- Theater allows a huge amount of self-expression. It's art on stage! Kids learn to create art through language, song, movements, tone and the list goes on.
- Theater doesn't have to be a career goal for a child to enjoy it and find usefulness in it. A friend once assumed, "You must want your kids to grow up and be actors." Well, no, that's not the point. It's an activity that will serve them their whole life long, just like sports. I push my children to have a sport to participate in and they also need to be involved in theater. I believe it's that important.
- Kids can participate in live theater as audience members, too. While I never made it onstage as a kid, I did find myself in a lot of audiences and I'm pretty sure that did me a ton of good. I take my kids to as many live performances as I can. I'll never ever forget taking my then-6-year-old to see Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan over 20 years later from when I'd seen her when I was 6.
- Kids can do all kinds of stuff backstage. There's more to live theater than who's on stage. There are sets to be built and changed, as well as lighting and sound to be organized and managed.
EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post is adapted from her blog, Four Little Monsters, at FourLittleMonsters.com.