LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL

Reflections on the behind-the-scenes gifts of theatre Education with local program directors Jennifer Johnson, Graham Northrop & Corey Simpson 

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THEATRE AND KIDS

Let’s be honest. When our kids express an interest in acting, it’s natural to imagine red carpets – the same way tiny ski racers may evoke parental dreams of Olympic medals. 

We can entertain these thoughts (ever so briefly) without turning into Tiger Mamas, because our local theatre programs offer children ways to experience the art and craft of acting – while emphasizing fun, friendship, and self-expression – rather than stardom. As our children enter adolescence – a time when their sense of self is both developing and vulnerable, their experience in theatre can offer gifts to serve them long after the curtains close.

Poise. Confidence. Eloquence, stage presence and grace, these are the gifts we hoped to highlight when we decided to cover the ways theatre education can support healthy development. In particular, we imagined theatre as an antidote to the all-knees, elbows and pimples awkwardness of adolescence. However, we learned through interviews that in addition to these outwardly-focussed qualities, theatre can build far richer inner capacities. Rather than attempting to describe the passion and clarity these theatre directors shared, we give you their words.

The Gifts Of Resilience & Independence:

“Theatre is a place where a child can feel their first steps toward independence, and if they don’t have that, then it’s harder for them to move into character.  I work to create a space where they are safe to ask questions, make mistakes, and most of all, be themselves.”
– JENNIFER JOHNSON, DIRECTOR SOL THEATRE, CARBONDALE

“Our jobs as theatre directors is to create an environment where it is perfectly okay to fail in the pursuit of doing something new and interesting. When this happens during rehearsal, kids experience a deeply collaborative process and they learn that it’s not just about learning their lines. It’s not just about them.”
– GRAHAM NORTHROP, THEATRE ASPEN

“Studies show that introducing children to the arts at a young age has an impact on their ability to think independently and creatively. When children grow up in an environment where they can experiment with who they are, not confining themselves to a certain way of thinking, and can express their own experiences – they grow up to be happier adults.”
– COREY SIMPSON, THUNDER RIVER THEATRE COMPANY, CARBONDALE

The Gift Of Better Understanding Ourselves:

“I create an environment where children are safe to be themselves, which is what frees them to move into their character. I realized recently that I created this space as if it was for my 8-year-old self.”
– JENNIFER JOHNSON, DIRECTOR SOL THEATRE, CARBONDALE

“Learning who a character is, and about their over-arching objectives and how to best portray them – this work of preparing for a role gives us a better understanding of our own motivations, our own inner struggles.”
– GRAHAM NORTHROP, THEATRE ASPEN

“Working in theatre, kids and adolescents experience ways to play with their impulses and engage authentically with others, so they naturally develop confidence and feel more comfortable in their own skin. They develop an appreciation for who they are, and how they might be different from or similar to other people. They can get out of their own way and stop questioning themselves so much.”
– COREY SIMPSON, THUNDER RIVER THEATRE COMPANY, CARBONDALE

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Keep reading the online version of the magazine for the full article and fund photos. Our local youth are learning so much through regional theater programs.