The Blog

Why Children’s Theatre?

i May 3rd No Comments by
When it comes to ‘children’s theatre’ there are two basic types. There’s the adult produced and performed type and then there’s the ‘Theatre for children, by children’ type that Wylie Acting Group for Children stands for. Regardless of the type, perhaps children’s theatre ought to be called “Spectacle for all ages,” since it exercises everyone’s imaginations, familiarizing us with foreign cultures, building respect for people from all walks of life, relaxing us, relieving our stress, and sending us back to the daily grind enriched and renewed. At its very best, children’s theatre empowers and educates even as it exhilarates and entertains. 
Having just wrapped directing a lively rendition of Charlotte’s Web, as I normally do, I take a step back from my WAG duties and try to rest a little and reflect a little on how the production went. Inevitably there’s the need to dive back in and join the preparations for the next show. In doing so, last night I made a visit to our Facebook page. I hadn’t ventured there since the few days leading up to opening night. What a delightful surprise it was to find so many sweet comments from our Facebook page followers. Here’s a glimpse at just a few: 

Seeing comments like these remind me of why I wanted a children’s theatre group in Wylie. The entertainment industry and mass marketing often panders to our worst instincts, desensitizing children to violence and “difference” rather than opening their eyes and hearts, refining their emotions, enlightening them and transporting them beyond the known to new realms. 
In the theatre world, the quality of children’s entertainment is uniformly high. Under all circumstances, it affirms life and attempts to promote community and harmony. Most theatre companies are careful to blend educational elements into the diversion with the knowledge that the joy and wonder of live movement, melody and dialogue must outweigh the need to be instructive. Fun is still the bottom line. 
And the fun isn’t just limited to children. Parents laugh at pratfalls and silly antics just as readily as youngsters do. Incidentally, children do appreciate the fact that moms, dads and older relatives are enjoying themselves as much as they are. This adds to the child’s fun and makes the occasion a bonding experience, a special child-centered event that emphasizes and elevates the value of the pint-sized members of our society. 
While many children’s theatres operate under the assumption that the educational values of theatre are embodied in the performances themselves, a given in all arts, here at WAG we do things a little differently. From the beginning it has been my goal to involve young people, and their families, in every aspect of theatre production. And so far we can’t think of a single reason to even consider abandoning this goal. During Charlotte’s Web we asked the children what their favorite thing is about being in a WAG production. Reading the forty or so responses was certainly a treat for me. There were lots of ‘I like to dress up’ and ‘I think being on stage is fun’ type comments but my favorites, which actually serve as an unsolicited endorsement of what we do, were these: 
‘…the smiles on people’s faces when the play is done.’ Ginna, 12 years
Ginna is learning the art of bringing joy to others, not just herself.

‘…I get to interact with new people and make new friends!’ Zoe, 10 years
Zoe is learning that there’s a great big world out there with lots of people who like the same things she does.

‘…the excitement of being onstage and having such great memories, making new friends and knowing that you are a part of something bigger than meets the eye.’ Tyler, 10 years
Tyler is learning what it means to be a member of a community and the value of participating in worthwhile activities.

‘…I like to see all my friends and see how great they are at acting!’Kayden , 9 years
Kayden is learning that standing back and allowing others to stand in the spotlight can be fun too. 

‘…working on the set with my dad.’ Robert, 14 years
Robert is learning that spending quality time with family is important. 
This is why we do what we do. Without being in any way pontifical or overtly educational, the performing arts teach us to take stock of our existence and to appreciate circumstances that we often take for granted. If children’s theatre teaches us anything, it demonstrates the interconnectedness of life and the need for playtime in everyone’s schedule. And what great playtime it is! 
As Wilbur says ‘Living a good life is much more important than living a long life.’ With seven productions behind us, I’m so pleased and proud to be working with volunteers (board members, parents, community sponsors and more) who work continuously to put good into children’s and family’s lives.


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