Theatre has always been a popular outlet for youth and today’s youth are no exception. Your child may be showing interest in this year’s school play – but you’re wondering if you really want him or her to learn about being an actor, singer or dancer.

The Benefits of Theatre

Theatre addresses skills which benefit children’s education and development in five general skill areas: physical development/kinesthetic, artistic development/theatre, mental development/thinking, personal development/intra-personal, and social development/interpersonal. It’s not all that clinical though – theatre is meant to fun too! If your child is interested in getting involved in theatre, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Theatre is not only for the outgoing. There are many ways for students to participate even if they’re afraid of the spotlight. Your child can play an ensemble role – a face in the crowd or a voice in chorus – which gives him stage time without the pressure. Or if they want to be part of theatre but don’t want to be on stage, find out about backstage positions – designing, building the sets, serving as part of the crew for a show, running the lights or sound, etc. – the list goes on. There are tons of would-be actors, but never enough crew members, and without the crew the show doesn’t go on!  Well it does, but it’s just really dark, and there isn’t a whole lot to look at :) .

The world of theatre can be challenging. Actors have to be willing to put themselves ‘out there’ to audition and the reality is they won’t always get the part(s) they desire. Sometimes though, disappointment can lead to growth. If your child comes home sad that they didn’t get the role they wanted, encourage them to politely ask the director or teacher why. Most teachers will give specific, constructive suggestions. Learning to absorb and accept critique is a key life skill– whether on or off the stage. Once your child is aware of where they need improvement, you can help them to make a plan to work on their weaknesses. Did they talk too fast because they were nervous? Help them find opportunities to practice their public speaking. Did they not know the song they were supposed to sing? Next time, get a copy of the script and score from the library or download the music online, and practice well before the audition. If your child knows the material well, they’ll give a better audition. Teaching them to come prepared is a valuable life skill along with the ability to recognize that we can always learn – no matter what our age.

If your child gets involved in a production, be prepared for a time commitment. A production is a lot of work, and there will likely be a number of rehearsals to attend – which are not really “optional” activities. Once you’ve made the commitment to be part of the production, it is not fair to the rest of the cast and crew if your children need to leave early, arrive late or skip rehearsals entirely.

Keep your perspective – and help your child keep theirs.  One of theatre’s greatest gifts is that it forces people to work together as a team, even if they don’t know or like each other. Your child needs to see themselves as part of something bigger, which means showing up for rehearsals even when they’d rather do something else and being gracious to “teammates”.  M&P definitely models and encourages this behaviour!

How to Choose a School

But before getting involved in a show it’s great to start with classes, and choosing a theatre class for your child can be a daunting task. However, if you are aware of certain things, you can easily choose the best theatre class and find a place for your child to stretch their wings, and make the entire world their stage.

Does the class look to be fun?
This is very important because a fun-filled class delivers a much better learning outcome. Drama classes can help develop speaking, problem-solving and listening skills, as well as boosting self-esteem and broadening horizons, but your kids will be having too much fun to notice!  M&P’s instructors are serious about their craft and about sharing it with others in a fun-filled way.

Can students gain a variety of skills?
Actors who can sing, dance and have other skills are chosen more often for roles as they have multiple skills that can be put to use in a production. At M&P, the core of our theatre programming focuses on multidisciplinary work – or Musical Theatre. Look closely though, as in many companies, particularly for those in the dance world; the term ‘musical theatre’ is used in a way that may not meet your expectations.

Do the performers get the opportunity to use their newly attained skills?
As with any skill, it is very important for actors to continually practice their craft – and after all, theatre is a ‘performing’ art.  M&P offers performance opportunities through the year including our annual recitals. We also encourage our performers to use their skills as often as possible and audition for other shows in order to help master them.

Does the school offer enough space and a safe environment to enhance learning?
Safe space is essential for performers to work within, and can be highly influential in the students’ development. M&P offers spacious studios large enough to stage a production for most theatre stages.

Another myth is that participation in drama will damage a child’s academic progress. While every child is not the same, studies have concluded that students involved in the arts tend to have higher academic performance and better test scores. But academic gains aren’t the only benefits – there are the obvious ones: improved self-confidence, better public speaking skills, as well as other gains, such as the ability to work in group settings and the ability to work through agreement and differences or obstacles to achieve a goal. Being in a show requires students to follow a time line, use self-discipline, and accept feedback. Studying theatre can be a great starting point for careers such as teaching, law, and politics, not to mention broadcasting and performing. And the ability to speak confidently in front of a group is a great asset for any career.

So no matter what stage your child is at in their theatre development – ask a few questions about the school you’re considering. Then, once you settle on one, sit back and watch them grow!