Yes, the theatre is a place for coming out of your shell. For learning how to manage your time. For learning new skills as an actor, dancer, singer. Yes, we come to the theatre to escape. To play. To have fun in a safe environment. We come to the theatre to challenge ourselves. To experience things that we have never experienced in real life. Performing teaches us the value of hard work, how to face our fears, how to fail and grow from those failures.
But there is also something else very important that happens in youth theatre.
One of the biggest reasons that I find myself still directing youth theatre after all of these years is because I remember how important my theatre family was to me as I navigated the tumultuous landscape of my high school years. When I felt alone, anxious, rejected, scared or bored, my theatre friends were there to lift my spirits. We were from different peer groups; some of us were cheerleaders, some of us were academically inclined, some of us were outcasts, and some of us were jocks but when we came to rehearsal, we were in a special tribe of individuals who loved each other fiercely.
The theatre community has always been a place where we are all accepted and loved. It's always been a safe place where we can express our rage, our sorrow, our fears without worrying about being judged. I remember being so inspired by my theatre friends as they felt empowered to come out to their families or when they challenged the administration to tackle plays with a strong feminist agenda. We were so supportive of each other that we felt safe to be our authentic selves.
And the kids I work with today are the same. They are unique individuals with incredible stories. They support each other. They raise each other up. They love one another fiercely. And they are my daily inspiration to get out of bed, put on my big girl pants, and get things done. Because they are the future and they are incredible.
So, parents, when you're weighing the pro and cons of enrolling your child in a show or a theatre class, remember this is so much more than a way for them to gain confidence or learn how to manage their time. Being a theatre kid means you're a part of a super cool society of bad ass kids who've got each others' backs for life. It means you're confident, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and incredibly powerful.
When I find myself despondent in the face of uncertainty or anxious about the future, I go to rehearsal. And I always, always, leave with hope in my heart.