By Amy Hoffman
I’ve been involved in a community theater for several years in a variety of supporting roles. Although many great shows are performed by adults each year, my favorite event is the annual Children’s Workshop Production. A cast of 25 – 45 children, ages 5-12, come together for about two months each year to learn a show, and then they perform that show for two weekends to the delight of their family, friends, and community members.
Why do I love this annual process so much? I’ve seen:
- Shy children develop boldness
- Bolder children learn to work as part of a team
- Quiet children learn to project their voices
- Nervous children step out in front of a crowd and shine
- Parents and grandparents glowing with pride at their young artist
Theater matters. We live in a world where creativity can be stifled by the stress of current events and by a focus on rushing to our next appointment. Taking some time to dream and think outside of the box is an exciting part of the journey. Theater is a fantastic way to imagine.
Ponder these quotes:
“Theater is my temple and my religion and my act of faith. Strangers sit in a room together and believe together.” ~ Harvey Fierstein
Or this adaptation of his quote (source unknown): “Theater is an act of faith. We get a bunch of strangers in a room, the lights go out, and then we all dream the same dream.”
How can you provide theater experiences for children in your program?
Take a field trip if you live close enough to a theater. Some theaters provide summer camp programs for children and teens, and I’ve discovered that they will sometimes offer a free dress rehearsal performance; it doesn’t hurt to ask! College theater departments are also often looking for audiences. You can also invite theater groups to visit your program; many areas have local traveling troupes who will perform an on-site show that may include puppets, singing, dancing, and/or audience participation.
Maybe you don’t have a local theater. You can provide theater experiences in your classroom. Pretending helps with learning. A study discovered the link between participating in a theater production and increased cooperation and creativity in preschoolers. They learn to reason and to form a hypothesis when they consider different scenarios. The ability to generate a variety of solutions to a problem leads to creativity. Social development also occurs. Children learn empathy as they relate to the stories they are acting out and/or observing. They can identify with multiple perspectives as they watch actors solve problems.
Classroom theater experiences can be provided in a variety of ways.
- Read books aloud and have children act out the roles as you are reading.
- As you are reading a new story, ask the children what emotions the characters are feeling and how they think the characters might react.
- Add props and costumes to your dramatic play center for children to act out their favorite stories.
- Provide puppets for the children to use. Check out this blog post for great ways to use puppets in your classroom.
- Add a puppet stage. The children can even work together to create their own.
- Designate an area in your classroom that can be used as a performance space where the children can sing, dance, or act during free play.
- Set up a flat space outside that can be used as a stage. The engineering program at a local college volunteered to create a flat wooden stage on the playground at a center where I was the director, and the children loved singing, dancing, and performing other shows on it.
- Perform along with the children!
What are some ways that you incorporate theater experiences in your program? Leave a comment on this post. We’d love to hear from you!
Benefits of introducing your child to theater (This article includes not only benefits, but also some fun activities that you can do in your classroom.)
Toward Creativity (This is the research study referenced in this post.)