June 6, 2013

How theatre has helped my little boy

(This is a rather lengthy post about how theatre has helped my boy grow in confidence and how I think all kids should have a chance to participate in a play)

My little girl Maren has always been the dramatic type.  She was acting out stories at age 2 and has always loved to pretend the fireplace was her stage.  She would put on daily shows for the family and loved to direct her younger brothers.  It seemed obvious that we should sign her up for theatre classes.

Maren performing in one of my choir concerts when she was 7

In January 2012, I found a great program in town on a saturday morning that taught singing, dancing, and acting.  Perfect!  While I was signing her up I noticed that the class was for 1st through 4th graders.  Maren was then in 3rd grade, and Joshua was a 1st grader.  I asked Jason if maybe we should sign up Joshua too, since it's always nice to have the kids do activities together for scheduling purposes.

Jason's first response was "Do you think he will do it?" Joshua, at that time, was not the type who liked to have people looking at him.  He'd ignore grown ups when they'd ask him questions.  He'd refuse to get up and sing with the other children during church programs.  During his soccer games when he was younger, he'd stand on the field and hide behind his daddy's legs. He didn't even like participating in his own birthday parties, preferring instead to sit on my lap and watch the other kids. He just didn't like the attention.  It made him uncomfortable.  So it was a legitimate question.

He'd been getting a bit better though, and I personally have always been of the opinion that arts education is especially valuable for those who have trouble expressing emotions, so I signed him up, hoping that having Maren there would help him feel comfortable.  Surprisingly, he really enjoyed it, and said he wanted to participate in their spring musical production of Suessical Jr. Jason and I were a little bit worried that he wouldn't get up on stage once he looked out and saw all those strangers staring back, but agreed he could audition.

I remember on the day of the audition I was really nervous about Joshua and what he would do when it was his turn to stand up and sing and act.  When they came out of the room, Maren told me that they were both supposed to come to callbacks the next day.  I didn't believe her. I thought it possible for Maren to get a callback, but went back in to the room to verify with the directors that they wanted Joshua too.  I guess it's a bit sad I had so little confidence in my son, but that's just how it was.

The next day at callbacks we found out he had been called to audition for the part of JoJo, which is a pretty big part in the Jr. version of the play.  Jason and I were a bit worried.  Surely they wouldn't give him that big of a part since this was his first show, and he was so young, and we were really worried about what would happen when show time came around and whether or not he would get on stage.  And fortunately he did not get the part, but instead had a small part.  He had a great experience and we were so proud of him for performing.

Maren as a Who and Joshua as Max the Dog

It turns out theatre is kind of his thing.  He loved his experience and asked to do more.  He participated in a week long summer acting program.  His self confidence has increased tenfold. At Christmas time, I had forgotten that I had been asked to have Maren, Joshua, and Christopher sing a verse of "Away in a Manger" at our church's Christmas party. I had mentioned it to the kids a couple weeks before but then completely forgot about it.  When the song began that night, I remembered and panicked, because I  hadn't reminded the kids or prepared them and I had no idea what was going to happen. Maren being the girl that she is, ran and grabbed the boys and went to the microphone and they started singing.  Afterward I asked Joshua if he was nervous since we hadn't remembered to practice and he said "No mom, I've done lots of performances before." What?  This was not the same little boy.

He took the singing/dancing/acting class again in the fall, and again wanted to participate in their spring musical of Beauty and the Beast Jr.  He auditioned and got called back for the part of Chip and this time he got the part!  He was thrilled!  And Maren has had some practice being happy for other people.

Theatre has been such a great experience for him.  I'm so glad I signed him up for that class even though we weren't sure if he would participate.  I'm so thankful to the wonderful teachers who have helped him grow. Sometimes we tend to think that drama is only for those children who are outgoing, loud, and natural performers.  We need to remember that Arts education benefits all types of personalities, and maybe especially those kids who tend to stand back in the shadows.

And now here are some pictures from the show, because I just think my kids are so cute.

Joshua, Maren and cousin Brittany before the show

Waiting backstage

Maren as a villager in "Belle"
Joshua as a teacup

Maren as a cheese grater in "Be Our Guest"

The spell is broken and he's a boy again!
After the show they brought out the characters to greet the audience and sign autographs.
Joshua wasn't very comfortable with this part of being Chip.
 We practiced saying "thank you" and "thanks for coming" at home. 

Maren and some friends

Me and my sweet kids.  I got to help out backstage with costumes
and loved being a part of my kids' experience.  

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