For a lot of kids and teens, the best part of school comes when the school day is over and they can participate in their school’s theater productions. This was the case for Yellin Center Learning Specialist Lindsay Levy, Ed.M. when she was in high school. Read her story and her reflections on what makes theater so rich with opportunity for children of all ages with a variety of strengths, challenges, talents, and affinities.
Lindsay remembers deciding against trying out for the school play when the opportunity was initially introduced to her in sixth grade because she didn’t want it to interfere with her studies. She laughs now at what a needlessly serious middle schooler she was. When she finally auditioned for a musical and was cast in a part, she learned that not only was she able to balance rehearsal with obsessiveness over homework, but also that she really enjoyed the experience, and found her fellow theater loving students to be a fun and welcoming group. In college, where she spent most of her time and energy on her studies, she made time to include dance in her extracurricular activities. While her psychology courses helped pave the way toward the interest that led her to The Yellin Center for her full-time work, her dance and choreography experiences started turning the gears that led her to what is now her work-outside-of-work (when she is not teaching Zumba) in community theater.
As Lindsay prepares to choreograph and co-direct an upcoming community theater production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, she considers the ways that being involved in theater or other student productions can build important skills that students can use well beyond their senior play.
- Collaboration - Teamwork is a huge part of being able to put on any show. In order to reach the shared goal of a successful performance, everyone needs to work together. Personal achievement is contingent upon group achievement. Because of this, theater naturally fosters an environment in which helping is the norm. Rehearsals and behind-the-scenes work are great opportunities for socialization and building social skills.
- Listening - While speaking is clearly one responsibility of an actor, listening is a significant part of his/her work. Directors frequently give “notes,” or constructive feedback and instructions, which are then expected to be incorporated into future rehearsals of scenes. Cast mates need to pay close attention to each other’s lines and actions, in order to most effectively respond.
- Memorization - Learning lines for a show can be an excellent and inherently motivating way to figure out what type of studying works best for a particular child. How much should he try to learn at once? What tricks help the dialogue and movement stand out in his mind? How can he be sure he knows it?
- Confidence- For children who may normally have a hard time with public speaking, saying lines as a character can actually be a less threatening way to practice. For children who struggle academically, theater can be an opportunity to use strengths that they may not get to display during the school day. For children who might not have done theater before, simply doing something new and seeing that they can take on and conquer a challenge can be confidence-building.
- A Place for Everyone- Putting on a show involves so much more than the action the audience sees taking place on stage. Productions need set builders, stage crew, painters, costumers, prop masters, pit members, ushers, publicity, etc. While school can often be filled with a sense of feeling out of place, theater offers an opportunity for everyone to find a niche where they are comfortable, where they can thrive, and where they can find satisfaction and joy.