I experienced the power of the arts at a young age. Even before I knew how to write, I would spend hours drawing and painting and making up stories in my head to go along with my pictures. I dictated these stories to my mother who dutifully transcribed them until my education caught up with my ideas, and I was able to fill notebooks with my own stories. Then, when I was still in preschool, my dad took me to see an elementary school production of The Pied Piper. Now I don’t remember many things from when I was four, but I still remember this play, and how absolutely transfixed I was by the cool, older students playing these characters and creating this world onstage. When the Pied Piper appeared in the back of the audience to speak to the onstage characters, and then led the children back to “the village” through the audience I was spellbound. This was better than TV, better than my favorite videos – these characters were real and right next to me. Looking back, it was probably a mix of fascination and trepidation because to this day I am a little wary of theatre that involves the audience. But I believe it was that moment when my passion for theatre began; and not just an enjoyment of seeing a story told onstage, but an interest in how all the elements come together to create this amazing experience and a desire to get involved.
I was lucky to have parents who brought me to see many more plays, encouraged my writing, signed me up for drama classes and dutifully applauded as my friends and I put on our own plays in my living room. As I grew older and had these different experiences, I realized that acting was not for me, but my four-year-old fascination with the process of creating theatre never went away. Now I work in arts administration and as a stage manager, so not only am I able to see how a theatrical piece gets from page to stage, I play an active, important role in the process. And despite long nights of rehearsal and technical snafus that always seem to happen right before the show opens, there is always something magical about running a show for an audience for the first time that makes me want to do it again and again.
We all need to learn math and science along with drama, art, and music. And while some kids might be inspired by a cool science project or enjoy doing math puzzles in their free time, other kids will be inspired by the local drama club’s community play, or will run home after school with a story in their heads that is begging to be scribbled out. Cutting arts education and arts programs robs these kids of experiences that will entertain and inspire them and perhaps, in cases such as mine, drive their future path. It matters. A lot.
So let’s make sure we keep the arts in schools and in the community. And if you have kids, think about taking them to see a play (or bring them to YPT’s next performance on May 23rd!). You never know when it’ll be a life-changing experience.
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YPT Development Assistant