When my kids took their first theatre camps several summers ago, I had no idea what was about to unfold. The camps sounded fun and engaging enough, but beyond that, I was just connecting my kids with their interests. Before I knew it, Broadway camp led to Broadway class which led to auditions for children’s theatre. My son’s first audition was definitely that of a rookie (and a rookie mom), as he was the only one who had a guitar accompanist and sang longer than was specified. He was adorable, I was smitten, and the directors were encouraging of this young fledgling who got his first part. From this supportive community, we learned quickly how to prepare and audition for future shows (he’s on his eleventh). After my daughter saw her brother having fun in theatre, she bravely gave it a shot and is now on her seventh show. We certainly take a lot of deep breaths when it comes to auditions, but then the fun (and work) takes over!
Here are a few of the ways my kids – now in eighth and eleventh grades – have grown from their involvement in performing arts.
1. Performance Skills
This may seem obvious, but the breadth of their learned skills could be surprising. Once my kids started performing on stage, they became interested in exploring different aspects of theatre. Both kids have done voice work, learned musical instruments (guitar, piano, trombone, percussion), and enhanced their acting along the way. My son has taken a great interest in tap dancing, and my daughter is very excited about writing and film. Both have also learned about running a show via either technical crews such as lighting and sound, or other backstage particulars such as managing props and stage direction. And the courage and confidence it takes to get up on stage in front of an audience and perform translates to every aspect of life – from the classroom to the professional world.
2. Organizational Skills and Discipline
In order to balance all of the lessons, rehearsals, and shows with their heavy course loads, they had to be on top of their organizational games. Both have learned to prioritize, manage their time like champs, and keep their belongings organized (in their own special ways). They have sacrificed on many occasions to rehearse or perform, but have not regretted it at all. Discipline and responsibility have been necessary by-products, and their work ethic continues to amaze me.
3. Confidence and Initiative
Most of us are aware of the confidence that develops as we work hard and improve our skills and talent. I’ve seen this confidence enable initiative in my kids as they strive for more difficult goals and take on leadership opportunities in and out of performing arts. I love to see this passion at work. While my kids certainly don’t always attain what they are seeking (and occasionally have their hearts broken), this increases their determination for the next round. Case in point: My heart was full of joy when my daughter recently proclaimed she was one of “the best of the mediocre dancers!” This may sound funny, but we are all about progress.
4. Historical and Cultural Knowledge
My children have learned so much about different cultures and time periods by becoming those characters in musicals and watching others perform on stage. With each lesson comes an important glimpse into the human spirit and a thirst to learn more. Whether one of them is cast as Villager #2 in Fiddler on the Roof or a Jet in West Side Story, as they perform, they learn – and what a fun way to learn!
5. Community and Identity
If you spend five minutes talking with my kids or me about theatre, you will hear how important this community is in our lives. Theatre has been a family activity from the very start for us, and our family has grown closer and larger (to include our theatre community) because of it. In fact, my kids are now the best of friends. Our primary theatre group has sustained us with their support and encouragement as we have worked side by side with children and adults to put these shows on stage for the greater community. Everything doesn’t always run smoothly, but the energy and cohesion of this group bring it together every time. In addition to our family, the kids have this safe haven as part of their grounding identity. This goes with them as they realize the fulfilment of their individual identities (as performers, writers, singers, dancers, leaders, and, well, good humans).
6. Creative Outlet
As a psychotherapist, I know all too well how important it is to have outlets for expressing ourselves and letting off steam from our daily lives. Performing arts provides this release physically, mentally, and emotionally for my kids and their artistic-minded friends. It gives them a place to quiet their minds from the chatter of school and the tougher aspects of growing up. Through theatre, their true selves can shine through.
7. Fun and Laughs
You better believe all of the acting, dancing, singing, dressing up, putting on makeup, and hanging out in the green room has brought tons of joy and laughter and deep friendships to the kids. I don’t get to dress up and dance, but my moments of sitting in the audience and watching my children do what they love brings me to my own happy place. When I hear how excited they are about their new dance choreography or the script they are reading or writing, their passion brings out my passion as a mother tenfold. You might wonder why I list fun and laughs last. It’s because I see it as the icing on the cake!
Almost four years later, I would not take back a moment of their theatre time. As I’ve been writing this article, I’ve thought with each element: “This is the one – this is the most important thing they’ve gained from theatre.” It’s all been worth any bumps, bruises, and inconveniences along the way, and I cannot imagine who my children would be today without the influence of theatre in their lives. I’m immensely grateful for all of our individual and family experiences in every realm of the performing arts.
The Arts from the Daughter’s Side
by Real Daughter Caroline Davis
Joining a new theatre organization as a freshman in high school wasn’t easy. Everyone already had formed their friend groups. Not to mention, I’m extremely awkward and socially anxious. It was a rough start, but two-and-a-half years later, I could not be happier. I have found my friends, but more than that, I have found my place.
I’ve grown so much in these past few years. One of the best experiences happened this past December. I was at a callback, and I was being seriously considered for a role. I had gotten callbacks before, but I had always read or sang once and then been sent home. This time, I was there all day. Leaving, I felt so incredibly proud of what I had accomplished. In the end, I didn’t get the role, but I wasn’t that upset. For the first time, I felt I had truly shown my capabilities to the directors. Sure, I was a little disappointed, but my overall sense of pride overpowered any negative emotions. My confidence was quadrupled.
Theatre has allowed me to learn more about myself. After a few shows, I became increasingly interested in film and writing for the screen. I could talk about film for hours on end. Now, I am in a film class through a theatre organization, and it is, hands-down, the highlight of my week. Two hours a week, I get to focus on what I love most, what I want to do with my life. On top of learning more about film, I’ve been able to form new friendships through this class. Going to class each week, I feel like I truly have a place among the nine other kids in the class – all boys (yes, I am the only girl in the class, but it’s a blast).
Without my involvement in theatre, I would not be who I am today. I have so much more confidence and have learned so many life skills. While I may not have many friends at my high school, every weekend I get to spend hours with people who I love, and who love me. I am so incredibly thankful for everything I have experienced, even my rough beginning back in 2015. As a high school junior, I find myself dreading the next year, as it will be my last with this organization. I used to be a scared caterpillar, but now I have metamorphosed into a beautiful, confident butterfly – all thanks to theatre.
Caroline Davis hopes to become the youngest person to win an Academy Award for best screenplay.