Thursday, June 19, 2014

Drama Queens and Kings

I was involved in theater and acting from a very young age and even pursued it as a career before my son was born. It is my belief that theater is one of the best things a child can get involved in, and I am not the only one that thinks so! There are many benefits to being involved in theater, from confidence building, to better posture, to improved academic performance and more.

Me and a cast mate as Desdemona and Iago in Goodnight Desdemona, Goodmorning Juliet. 2005
Theater helps children to be more creative and stimulates their imagination. “Pretend play” is one of the best forms of play a child can participate in, even at home, but becoming actively involved in drama expands on it. Children learn public speaking skills and confidence. Corey Latta, a Teaching Artist at Adventure Theater Musical Theater Center in Maryland says, "One of my favorite parts of being a theater educator, is watching how much each child transforms during their time in a class or production! There is something about the collaborative nature of theater classes that really helps kids come out of their shells, use their creativity, and take ownership over something they have created.”

Acting helps children learn to empathize and read body language. As an actor, if only for a moment, you can experience what it’s like to be someone else. Actors also learn how to hold their own bodies; acting creates wonderful body awareness. When you are required to portray a sprightly child, an elderly person, and a fairy, you learn how to use your body in different ways and become more in tune with it. Actors also tend to have wonderful posture; in order for your words to reach the very last row, you have to know how to stand to facilitate good projection.

Children learn to work as a team in theater. It is never a singular effort; most plays are not a one-man show. When learning to act, you also learn to share your thoughts and ideas as well as give and take constructive criticism and feedback. Actors also have to learn how to handle rejection - you won’t always get the part you want. As I learned as a child, even if you get the lead one year, it doesn’t guarantee you will get it the next year. Disappointment doesn’t really get easier, but you do learn to handle it better.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, acting and theater involvement can also boost academic performance and reading skills. Studies show that children that participate in dramatic activities show significantly higher scores on Reading Comprehension Tests. Consistent participation in drama greatly improves academic performance and significantly bumps up standardized test scores. When involved in theater, you have to read and re-read scripts. (I can’t even count the number of plays I have read in this lifetime). Student actors are also more involved in community service, and less likely to drop out of school.

The best benefit, however, is that it is thrilling and fun. Your kids may not notice all of the skills acting is giving them, they will just enjoy it and want to do even more. As Ms. Latta says, “Take a chance on the arts, and come play!"

Note Feb 04 2016: This post was originally published online at Family Culture Magazine, but it seems to no longer be active. I previously had only a snippet here on my blog, but because the link to the full article was defunct, you can now read the whole thing right here at Prego to Legos!
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