One of the best things that ever happened to me was to get involved in community theater. Hands down. I love being part of theatre – any and all aspects of putting a production together bring me intense joy.
I also strongly believe in the power of theater to bring out the best in us. To help children develop their identity, to try out roles and behaviour in a safe environment and to work together to create something much greater than the sum of its parts.
We discover ourselves through drama. We discover our potential. We discover where we can go. We encounter new possibilities through cultural experience and sharing. What an opportunity for children to learn more about who they are and find ways of expressing different aspects of their identity, something Third Culture Kids in particular may struggle with.
There are countless advantages to being part of theater productions but I’ll just elaborate on my top 3 highlights for now. For me these are:
Performing and all the work that goes into it instilled confidence in me and trust in my abilities that I have used in all aspects of life – from speaking in school to walking into new spaces in new places, from facilitating a workshop to standing my ground in an argument.
These lines from the opening song of The King and I (more thoughts on the problematic nature of this production another time) have been with me since my first rehearsal. Sometimes I still whistle under my breath:
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect, I’m afraid
The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear
I fool myself as well
Being an American in Germany in the ‘80s & ‘90s wasn’t easy. We straddled cultures by living in a village and going to local schools but doing some things “on base”. The Performing Arts Center became a second home and there theater gave me a sense of belonging. The mixed group of people that are drawn to the arts always have one thing in common – a love of theater – which is a great starting point for connection and building community.
Community theater was a huge part of our life growing up and something we got involved in as a family. As a single, I found a community (outside the expats) through theater in Switzerland (more on that experience here). As a parent, working on school productions alongside my children gave us something in common and instilled a sense of pride in the children. Even during Christmas lockdown 2020 we found a way for them to participate in a production and this summer they took their shows outside – each rehearsal bubble performing a Grimm’s Fairy Tale in the park.
When you go beyond your comfort zone magic happens. Theater is fun and exciting. From the first audition to the last curtain it is filled with moments of anticipation and the buzz of success. Even better are the moments where you find a way to overcome a challenge and use any and all resources to make a show come together. Either by winging it through a scene because someone forgot their lines (theater is live!) or by finding creative solutions to set or prop challenges (like stealing my hubcaps for our production of Grease).
I hear you thinking “my shy child will never get on stage”. First, I suggest asking them but if that’s not their thing it’s not a problem at all. Like the tip of the iceberg actors are only the visible part of a production and it takes people working together in many areas to bring a production to fruition. Children (and their parents) can get involved and participate on stage and backstage, build & paint sets, contribute props, help with costumes, hair & make-up, work the lights, help out selling tickets or house managing, be a techie and move sets around during the show – there is literally something for everyone.
And everyone will reap the benefits.
Finally, there’s the thrill that comes with seeing the work you put into rehearsals, sets, costumes, lights, make-up and cooperation come to fruition in the final production.
Other Opinions & Resources
Please continue reading and listening by following these links and share your thoughts in the comments, below.
I was delighted when Kim from Resilient Expats recently highlighted theater on her Expat Family Connection podcast. Her guest Natasha from Theatre 4 Kids explains the starting point is who you are. We bring ourselves to drama. Before you pretend to be someone else, you first discover who you are. You find inspiration from your own life to bring to your character, which tends to reinforce who you are and where you come from. Listen to the whole show for more reasons why you and your children should find ways to do theater and how.
“A larger sense of imagination? Check. Creativity? Check. Literacy? Check. Participating in theater can also give your child more co-operational skills, discipline, and even improved self confidence as well as public speaking. All of these skills are useful with any occupation, no matter if it’s the arts or STEM!” It also increases attention span – such an important factor in a society that feeds off instant gratification. Read the full article here.
“…theater makes for smarter, braver, human beings. Theater helps connect the head to the heart,” Linda Hartzell, Artistic Director of the Seattle Children’s Theater.
This quote is from an article that discusses, among other things, how academic improvements can result from involvement in theater. Find it here.
“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. “ It also builds skills in areas you wouldn’t think of right away such as physical development. Read the full article here.
Your turn! What do you think of theater? Do you agree or disagree? Have something to add? Please share in the comments, below.
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