What Do You Think Of When Someone Says “Children’s Theatre”?
If you ask 100 people that question, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. But there will be one theme running through all of them: while children’s theatre is cute, and fun for the kids, it’s largely insignificant. I will agree that the majority of youth companies may follow that idea (I’m not judging any other company, they all have something they excel in) we are here to challenge the preconceived notions of what children’s theatre is.
First - I want our students to know the importance of professionalism. While we use a student cast, we do not put on typical student productions. During your time with us you should not be able to distinguish us from a paid professional cast. That does not mean that the students aren't having fun, quite the contrary. The more professional the production is, the more fun the students have. I have noticed this time and time again. They want to put on a professional production. They want to be challenged. And as long as we do this in a safe atmosphere they respond in kind.
Next, I believe that children’s theatre plays an important role in our society, for both the audience members and the performers. The performers learn valuable skills that they will use throughout their lives. We often hear about some of these skills: the ability to work together as a team or the ability to speak in public. Some of the other ones that you don’t hear about as much include the importance of body language and how to read it and use it to your advantage, the ability to make split second decisions when things are going off the rails, the ability to negotiate with others (most of a script is characters negotiating in one form or another with other characters, and the importance of “finding your light” – finding the way you best stand out in any given situation. Those were just the ones off the top of my head.
For the audience member it serves as a teaching tool. A way to learn new lessons in a brilliant way, or to relearn lessons that have been lost to us over years of hardening by the world. Every time I read a new script (and I read a lot of them) I’m always amazed at the lesson I’m remembering. It’s a surreal moment as I struggle with myself. How could I forget that. How could I let the world do that to me? Am I really just as venerable as everyone else? It’s eye opening.
As an audience member it’s your responsibility to remember these lessons for as long as you can. We aren’t doing this solely for your entertainment, although we hope we accomplish that goal too. We want to make the world a little better, a little kinder, and a little happier. Please help us. Next time you attend a children’s theatre performance, think. Really think about the lesson it’s trying to teach you, and try to remember how you forgot it in the first place. Then do everything within your power to forget it again.