How can any reasonable person in today’s world not understand how the theatre is one of the most beneficial experiences that a high school person can have?
Sure, there is a need for athletics, community activities and volunteer groups. However, theatre is the one area that almost everyone uses – directly or indirectly – in the world as they go through this experience we call life.
Picture this: It is presentation day and it is time for you to present the “big deal” to other executives. You take a deep breath and go forward. Or do you? If you have had experience on a stage, in front of a few thousand people, maybe the approach will be easier, maybe the way you present yourself to the others will show more confidence, and maybe you will succeed and make the deal work. Would you ask yourself any of these questions if your only preparation was involvement in rugby?
In the store, what help would a background in theatre offer as you meet the customers and answer a myriad of questions that range from very challenging to not challenging at all?
What most people don’t realize is that it is easy to spot a theatrical person in any walk of life. Who is outgoing and alive? Who has confidence and seems to be aware of what they are talking about? Who makes you feel comfortable with and easy to communicate with?
Being on the stage is not the only area in theatre that helps students prepare for the future. Being backstage or in a booth helps to create an educational opportunity that could possibly open a door for a career choice. Lighting knowledge, sound knowledge, costume building, second-hand properties to find and or build, set design, set construction, playing an instrument in a band for a musical and the opportunities go on and on depending on the strength and the school’s acceptance to support the arts.
Robert Corrigan, in his book The Modern Theatre (1964), says “But the theatre is dying and with equal regularity like the phoenix, it is resurrected. No one can say with certainty what its new form will be, although it would seem that the increasing influence of Brecht on the work of new dramatists all over the world indicates that the conflicts of men living in industrialized collective societies will provide the themes for the theatre of the future, and that the narrative structure of epic drama is the most appropriate form within which to embody these conflicts. But no matter what the future of the theatre will be like, that there will be a future is certain.
“First, largely because of the development of college and university theatre programs in this country, and the large increase in the number of professional repertory theatres here and abroad, there are many people who have experienced good theatre than ever before. And this enlarged audience wants and needs theatre, and it will not be satisfied for long with the maimed rites of psychological and moral cliché’, or impassioned Jeremiads from prophets of doom, or the meandering contemplations of writers who are morbidly consumed with introspection and self-analysis.
“Fortunately, audiences still go to the theatre in the spirit of expectancy, in the hopeful anticipation that the stage will be capable of accommodating all of the terrible, wonderful emotions and insoluble dilemmas of our shared life together. This demand bid made by our new and increasingly informed and aware audience for a drama that deals with the significant issues and concerns of our public life will, in all likelihood, force our playwrights to open up new frontiers in the drama and thus extend the boundaries of the theatre.
“The second great hope of the theatre is that, in spite of the over-riding temper of despair and the current dominance of antitheatricality, our playwrights still find human action significant, still find it necessary to write plays, and in the very act of writing attest to the miracle of life that contemporary despair would deny. We live in one of the most dramatic ages in the history of mankind, and if the past is any kind of reliable guide to what the future of theatre will be, we have good reason to believe that the theatre of tomorrow can be as dramatic as the world in which we live today.”
So one can see that even 50 years ago, people were questioning the importance of theatre in the world and realizing that it will always be a part of a person’s makeup in the fabric of the world today. All one needs to do is look at the news, YouTube or any world event and see that theatrics play out on a global stage. By watching the “theatrics” of people in the news one can understand how theatre has provided for them the opportunity to deliver their messages.
For a teenager in this world today, the theatre can provide an outlet to be creative, to escape, to create a diversion of life that can enhance their well-being and to entertain the people who want to have their well-being entertained in some way.
From the beginning of time, the theatre has been the key to inspire religious, political and business personalities to express themselves for good and for bad and deliver their messages no matter what is being expressed.
A person simply cannot say that theatre arts does not have an importance in the development of a teenager’s life. It is a key to how they can become an adult and deal with other people in this crazy world. It allows them to look at the mirror of the world and see themselves and what they can do to be a welcomed part of it. It provides for them an outlet they might have never found and gives them confidence to be a part of something that will build character, ambition, education and desire.
John Coon has been the director of theatre at Colchester (Vermont) High School for 38 years. He has directed theatre in every imaginable area of theatre from kindergarten to Actor Equity summer stock. One of his students over the years was Merritt David Janes, Broadway performer with School of Rock.