Written by Josh Orlando
Image credit: Be More Chill (2018)
The number of American theaters who cater to young people through outreach programs are increasing. Theatre is exceptional at helping kids with honing interpersonal social skills, building community, problem solving, and so much more. Young people deserve the opportunity to inhabit spaces which allow them to safely express themselves. And theatre can provide this space to American youth.
One of the most important life skills that theatre teaches young people is how to communicate. In the age of 280 characters max, meeting someone with great in-person communication skills can be uncommon. But theatre is all about communication! From the start of the creative process, artists are in conversation with one another about everything from original ideas to how to execute them, this is why communication is vital. Then during the performance there is another level of communication that takes place between the performer and the audience. This is when the central message or theme of the play comes through. There are so many components to theatre-making that require strong communication. When kids get involved in performing arts, they sharpen their skills as communicators both on and off the stage.
Another central life skill that theatre teaches children is that confidence truly is key. After their first couple of auditions, rehearsals, and performances, children begin establishing a stronger sense of self as an artist. They may then begin carrying themselves through life more confidently. To be able to get up on stage and perform requires a certain level of bravery. And when young people get involved in performing arts, it gives them that opportunity to be brave. Theatre gives them a chance to put themselves in unfamiliar situations, they experiment, they take risks. All of these experiences are direct contributors in building a young person’s confidence. The more positive connections and experiences that a young person is able to collect while developing, the stronger their sense of self will be once fully developed.
Above all, theatre is educational. Theatre exposes young people to new worlds, to different cultures, and to more possibilities. When working on a performance, the artists are submerged into the world of the play. A piece of theatre requires research, analysis, and dramaturgy. When kids work in theatre they don’t just perform plays, first they have to uncover the work’s historical context, they have to study the text and the psychology of each character, and there is also theatrical design which is a whole other trade of its own. Theatre is one of the most powerful tools in education because not only is it interdisciplinary, but at the end of the day the student gets to perform their lessons.
Perhaps the most valuable thing that theatre can offer a young person is a place to express themself. As we grow up we realize that there are not many places in the world for people of any age to self-express. Theatre is unique. It’s so important that we preserve such a defining experience for developing young minds. They are in desperate need of it.