Buses are back on the roads in our home base in Huntsville and we’re geeking out over the benefits of arts and theater education. A message from our Executive Director Karen Mockensturm:
As a public advocate for theatre arts education, I can tell you that students involved in some forms of arts education (visual arts, dance, music, or theatre) are more likely to take part in a math or science fair, more likely to vote at an early age, and more likely to volunteer in their communities. I can tell you that there are studies that prove arts education involvement leads to higher Academic success. I can tell you that for at risk students, involvement in arts education of some kind can make the difference between graduating from high school or not*.
These are data points- statistical numbers, the kind of digits that my acronym-loving area of Alabama (NASA! SLS! DOD! SMD! RSA!) goes loopy for when I present the argument for why local businesses and individuals should be actively supporting a children’s theatre. And while those data points do give me chills, they are only representative of the underlying reason why you or I should support theatre arts education: theatre arts education directly flies in the trend of digital isolation, getting students out from behind their screens and into relationship with each other. And when kids are in relationship, their world becomes a better place.
The job of an actor is to tell a story and theatre arts has a way of storytelling that engages students fundamentally it makes them more empathetic with each other as they identify the emotions of actors on stage or as they seek to understand the inner life of the character they are creating in the play they are performing.
Theatre arts promotes collaboration as students identify obstacles (How do we represent a medieval castle in our 5th period social studies classroom? How will Cinderella’s magical dress transformation happen onstage? How can we convince our audience that we are ancient mythical creatures slaying a dragon?) It helps them problem solve as a unit. Theatre arts education is collaborative. Every team member is vital to the success of the performance– from the director, to the lead actor, to the stagehand who moves the smallest prop in place, to the wardrobe assistant, to the light board operator.
Theatre arts education is inclusive. Theatre arts education invites difference. Students leave labels at the door when they walk into the rehearsal room or theater. They are no longer the “popular one”, the “brainiac”, or the “strange one. Instead, they become one part of a creative team charged with telling the playwright’s story under the vision of a director.
Most importantly, theatre arts education welcomes failure, encourages grit, and celebrates solution. For many kids, being part of a play or musical is the first time, they’ve felt part of a team, the first time they’ve contributed to a successful group mission, and/or the first time they’ve felt validated for contribution. All while looking other people in the eyes.