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What To Expect

Do you really want your child to be an actor?

Gai Jones says, “Yes!” A theater educator with over forty years of experience, Jones' work has been recognized by the American Alliance for Theater and Education, the Educational Theater Association, and the California State Senate (among others).

According to Jones, “Theatre addresses the skills which benefit children's education and development in five general areas: physical development/kinesthetic skills, artistic development/drama and theater skills, mental development/thinking skills, personal development/intra-personal skills, and social development/inter-personal skills.”

While many parents fear participation in drama will damage their child’s academic progress, a UCLA study concluded that students involved in the arts tend to have higher academic performance and better standardized test scores -- nearly 100 points better on the SAT, according to a separate study by The College Board.

Academic gains aren’t the only benefits. There are the obvious ones: improved self-confidence, better public speaking skills, but Jones says students show other gains as well, such as the “ability to work with an ensemble in cooperative ventures" and the "ability to work through consensus and differences or obstacles to achieve a goal.” She points out that a play requires students to follow a time line, to use self-discipline, and to accept feedback. Studying theater 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 boon for any career.

“Studying theater 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 boon for any career.”

If your child is interested in getting involved in theater, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Theater is not just for the outgoing

There are many ways for children 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. At many schools, there are tons of would-be actors, but never enough crew members, and without the crew, the actors would be lost!

2. Sometimes, disappointment can lead to growth

Not everyone can get a plum part in the school play. If your child comes home sad that he/she didn't get the role they wanted, encourage them to politely ask the director why. Most teachers will give specific, constructive suggestions. Learning to absorb and accept critique is a key life skill-- whether on the stage or off of it. Once your child is aware of where he/she needs improvement, help them make a plan to work on the weaknesses. Did your son talk too fast because he was nervous? Help him find opportunities to practice his public speaking. Did your daughter not know the song she was 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, she’ll give a better audition. And teaching her to come prepared is a valuable life skill.


3. Be prepared for a time commitment

A production is a lot of work, and your child will have to attend lots of rehearsals. Make room in your schedule – once your child is in the show, practice isn’t really an “optional” activity. Many parents think they can take their kids out early, drop them off late, or skip rehearsals entirely, which causes serious problems for the rest of the cast.

4. Keep your perspective – and help your child keep theirs

On opening night, you'll have all eyes on your little star, even if they’re playing the second daisy from the left. But in reality, it’s not all about your child. One of drama’s greatest gifts is that it forces children 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 than themselves, which means showing up for rehearsals even when they’d rather do something else, and being gracious to their “teammates” – especially if they’re the star of the show. Model that behavior: congratulate other students and their families, and encourage your child to think about what they can do for the cast, crew, or director. Writing notes or bringing in little treats before a performance or rehearsal can be a thoughtful gesture, especially from someone in a leading role.

5. Get involved

The typical drama teacher’s responsibilities would be divided between five or six different people in the professional theater world. Any help you offer will be greatly appreciated, whether you donate goods, build sets, sew costumes, or hand out programs during the performance.

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