Despite the flak it gets from the adults of various other professions, drama and performing arts are considerably significant in the growth of children. If you think about it, it is almost second nature for children to play pretend or immerse in make-believe with their playmates and toys. Enter theater. It is the formalized artistic medium to continue this natural outlet of human expression and creativity and the several humanistic benefits it offers to its participants.
The Alliance for Arts Education in the US notably stated in their renowned booklet, Performing Together: The Arts and Education, “The future of our nation depends on our ability to create—and to be creative. During the coming decades our most important national resources will be human resources. If our nation is to continue to meet the challenges of the future, today’s schools need to develop creative leaders.”
Find out more about how theater is actually helpful in rearing children and guiding them to the right path.
How Exactly Does Theater Help Children?
The legendary playwright William Shakespeare taught the world that art is not a mere form of entertainment but is based in truth—a philosophy popularly theorized by Plato. Shakespeare conveyed this through his character, Hamlet, who says, “The purpose of playing is to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature to show virtue her feature, [and] scorn her own image.” Theater, like most art forms, is therefore a reflection of society. It is a product of the minds of individuals living with the social issues of their time, sending out an effective message of awareness to the audience. Hence, theater not only tells stories of the past but shows the audience how to shape the future.
With this significance of the art form in mind, here’s how theater further impacts the growth of children positively.
Nurtures emotional intelligence
Acting requires that we examine the motives of a character in a story. In order to play a role competently, an actor must be able to fully inhabit a character’s soul. An actor must be able to really understand how the world looks through another person’s eyes. More often than not, antagonists in plays have reasons behind their actions. Recognizing human motivations is called empathy, a quality that helps people become more harmonious human beings. The theater is a fun and safe place for children to develop this very important life skill.
Boosts confidence early
For many children, public speaking is a dreaded fears. By providing young people with an opportunity to appear and speak in front of an audience, theater empowers children and conditions them early on to face the fear of being onstage or speaking in front of many people. And when children are put in an environment where their ideas are not only heard, but allowed to (safely) be lived out, they become braver and more confident in their own decisions as well. This translates well into school and home life and, ultimately, their life in society. Your child generally becomes more willing to try new things too.
Encourages reading and writing
Participating in a play requires actors to read, reread, and understand a script and its meaning. Through the rehearsal process, child actors develop an awareness and recognition of new words and sentence structures. This often inspires them to discover more stories or try out writing stories on their own as they continuously witness a script come to life.
Enhances oral communication
Through the rehearsal process, young people learn to speak up, raise their voice, enunciate and inflect their dialogue so that the story can be heard and understood. Young people explore words and sounds, and more importantly, how their character’s words impact other characters and contribute to the progress of the whole story.
Broadens understanding of humanity
Through theater, children have the opportunity to celebrate the richness and depth of human expression in all of its forms, as well as the meaning and significance behind it. When a child is a part of theater, they work with so many different kinds of people. The material also covers a variety of subjects because they are learning about the world and humanity and how to creatively portray these concepts on a stage. This teaches them how to address critical issues in our world and how to accept others for who they are without judgment.
Instills key values
- Humility. Children are taught humility as they learn the value of critical feedback, both positive and constructive. Effective mentors and directors often teach the cast and crew that no one is perfect and special and that the performance is a collaborative effort.
- Responsibility. Each individual in a theater production has a task to accomplish in their hands. Through the rehearsal phase, superiors instill the value of taking responsibility with every practice and routine.
- Teamwork. Being part of a cast teaches teamwork just like sports do. Someone once said, “The most important person on the stage is the person next to you.” Recognizing the importance of other participants is crucial because everyone assumes actors only care about standing in the spotlight. But in reality, no one can act alone. Every scene in a show involves having to connect, literally and figuratively, with another character, more so with the crew backstage trying to make things onstage work.
- Respect. Being part of a local theater production also teaches children kindness and respect. They get to see that each person, regardless of what role they have, greatly contributes to the success of the show.
The arts act as an agent through which a variety of emotions can be learned, rehearsed, and expressed. When kids grow up to be adolescents, they may find it difficult to express their emotions. The arts provides a great outlet for the youth to explore a wide range of feelings including delight, anger, and unhappiness. This exploration also enables them to learn to approach situations in an array of different manners, developing creative thinking in the process. Through creative expression, students learn to comprehend our world better and are therefore better equipped to navigate the challenges they might be faced with upon graduating from secondary schooling.
A Final Quote
This quote has made its rounds on the internet for quite a while, and it does ring true to everyone who has experienced taking part of a theater production, whether onstage or backstage.
“Theater is a science. Theater is mathematical. Theater is a foreign language. Theater is history. Theater is physical education.Theater is language arts. Theater is business. Theater is technology. Theater is economics. Theater is taught in schools not because you are expected to major in theater, not because you are expected to perform all through life, not so you can relax, not so you can have fun but so you will recognize beauty, so you will be sensitive, so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world, so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good. In short, more life.”