Posts Tagged ‘Parents’
This subject has always interested me. I have had experiences looking on when theatre professionals counseled students to understand their “type” and have thought that in the case of auditioning and in looking toward a career in the theatre, that this made great sense. I have had my own experiences as the mother of children who have dissolved to the floor in puddles of despair after they were not cast as a character they were in no way suited for but dearly wished to play. As the director of a youth theatre I have received angry emails from the parents of young actors who had in their own living rooms dissolved into these sad same little puddles when I did not cast them as the characters they yearned to be but were the wrong physical type, or not old enough, or not (oh I hate this) strong enough (at least at that point) to play.
So in some ways I do think it is important for kids to know their “type.”
However! From an educational standpoint I do agree that helping young actors stretch into new places can benefit them in so many ways. That: “theater is a powerful instrument in conquering adolescent self – consciousness and insecurities.” I also agree that playing new characters can help a teenager with those ever present teen issues: discomfort in their body, discomfort relating to characters who differ greatly from who they are, and can offer a world of useful opportunities to enhance social and collaborative work skills.
I feel improv activities such as the Viola Spolin work we have been studying here at USC will go a long way toward helping children access these creative goals in the classroom.
This week in our little Center Stage group it finally became clear what we were working towards. Not a big fancy revue or even a recital, but a presentation of our work: a work in progress.And I finally gave in to what I have never given into before, and put some of my quiet little ones on mic. It is going to make them hear-able and in this way we can concentrate now of getting their little pieces ready for performance rather than my always stopping them to say that I can’t hear them. I want them to be comfortable at this point, and relax into what their performance is going to be.
It is really quite charming, the way they have taken to their work. I am very proud of them. I will talk to the audience about how the show is going to be a demonstration of what we have been working on, rather than a finished product, and not to be concerned if they see me stop and work with the kids during the evening. And this way it will be a chance to show the families how we all work together to create a production, and hopefully our methods will shine and the parents will understand this way how the goal is always to foster growth and confidence in the children, rather than to showcase their specific talents. And those talents will, I am sure, shine through as well.
This past Thursday our Glenforest Multiple Intelligences students – who also happen to be our Drama and Music students – presented a poem and a rap they had written in class to the entire gathering of the gala. While the children were wonderful and their charming performance was a big hit, it is unlikely that any but their teachers and their parents realize how very great a triumph this was for many of them. For many of the kids, the courage it took to get up and take the risk involved in performing was almost debilitating. But they did it. They took the chance on themselves; they took that risk.
Mary Ann and I were incredibly proud of them.
Welcome to the portion of my life where it begins to imitate art. As we move along in the production of TBCPE I find myself feeling more and more like Grace Bradley as we move from blocking and repeated attempts to keep everybody quiet backstage to actual acting skills, set construction, props gathering and…well, more repeated attempts to ask for quiet backstage.
My world begins to revolve now around these 28 shiny young faces in a very real way, as they begin to get a clue about the magic that lies in wait for them on December 17th. My job now goes beyond teaching them and encouraging them and costuming them and reassuring parents and begging for help from the same parents to actually beginning to let the kids themselves take control over the show with the very important backstage guidance of the stage manager.
It never fails, and while we have our work cut out for us: new space, new program, no budget, almost no contacts, almost no lights, and a cast of exuberant, dedicated but largely inexperienced young actors – it doesn’t matter. Because what really matters is the way they will all feel when the curtain goes up and they realize that they are ready. And the way they will feel when it is over and success has been had by all.
There is nothing like it. And I love being part of this process with them.
In rehearsal things are winding up as we approach the Thanksgiving break. And of course after we come back is when things will take off at a much quicker pace; the costumes and the set and the props will start coming in and as we move along the idea of the performances will get more and more real to the kids until they find that they are ready for opening night, almost without realizing it.
We have a stage manager now; a college student with a lot of experience behind and on the stage. She is lively and a take charge kind of girl, which I love as I have not become any better at being a right brain person since moving to SC, believe me! and there have been parents coming out of the woodwork to help, and that is so wonderful. Things are going well, and are right where I know they need to be. If feels so good to be directing again.
I was at a little party for the REACH program today at Killian Elementary. Since last fall I have spent a little while every week there acting as a mentor in the program, and reading and working on literacy skills with second graders.
While at the school today surrounded by kids and the people who work with them, it hit me full force in the face: I miss my work! I miss the little faces and the funny things they say and the parents and the siblings coming around to watch while they wait to pick them up. I miss the baby brothers and sisters who cannot understand why they can’t be onstage too. But most of all I miss the sharing. I miss them sharing their days with me, and the discussions that always follow. I miss them sharing their favorite book or their markers or their book or a handful of those weird looking colorful goldfish crackers with the new friends they have made. But most of all I miss sharing with them what I know they are going to love: the wonderful world of youth theatre.
As Wilhem Lange in Vermont says: I gotta get back to work.
This past Monday I went and auditioned for a local community theatre’s production of Gypsy. I don’t audition for much of anything any more; my passion now is for directing and I often lose patience with acting. But once in a while a part will come along that I
have always wanted a crack at, and Mama Rose in Gypsy is one of them.
And you know, it is so good for directors to remember the way it feels to be up there in front of everybody baring your soul and singing your heart out. It takes a great deal of courage for young people to put themselves out there and let their guards down enough to do their work on the stage. I felt that again last Monday. I was here in a new town, in a new theatre, didn’t know a soul in the room, but when I got up on the stage I was in my element again and I knew it. And ok, one of my notes slid out a bit sideways – a terrible moment for sure! – but still I felt that old feeling, the one that I felt when I stepped onto a big stage fir the first time in 10th grade. This was where I was meant to be.
And I know this is what our new young actors are feeling when they get up on that stage. They may not even have known it was something they were missing, but you can see it in their eyes, and I hear it from their parents so often. “He loves coming here. It’s the ony thing he’s ever done that we didn’t have to fight with him to get him to go back to after the first time.” They feel at home, and they feel they belong. And when they are up on the boards for the first time they look around and see the lights and the curtains and the empty seats waiting for the audience and they know they are where they need to be. And slippery note or no slippery note, that’s how I felt last Monday night. And it felt real good.
I drove this morning to St. Anne’s school in Sumter where I am going to be doing my first set of day camps this summer during the second two weeks in June. The visit was just a chance for me to see the performance space and meet the principal and a couple of the other faculty members.
I was met at the door by the young Mama of one of the Charlotte’s Web goslings – she was the person who had the idea to hold the camp at St. Anne’s. It was great to see her again – her little red headed gosling is first grader there - and let me tell you that she has been invaluable in helping me get this camp opportunity off the ground.
Where would youth theatre be without these wonderful parents?
It was a great visit!
This week I met with Mr. Chris Winkler, headmaster of the Glenforest School,http://www.glenforest.org/, to discuss beginning a drama program at Glenforest and also to talk with him about working out a situation where I could possibly use the Glenforest facility for Center Stage community programs such as our classes and workshops, and perhaps even having access to their auditorium for our plays.
Glenforest is a school for kids with learning differences. I have long wished for an opportunity to work with this population of students and feel that the social interaction inherent in theatre arts acitivities, be it onstage or off, is just one of the ways we can reach and help students within this set of qualities. I am the mom of two sons with ADD and other issues, bright and creative kids who struggled to be successful in the public school system. A program such as the one Glenforest offers would have made such a difference in their lives.
I look forward to meeting with Mr. Winkler as well as with Dean of Students Barton Calvert, a member of the faculty, board and parents organizations in the next week. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
I must say that I have met many children whose parents tell me, “This is the first thing he’s ever joined that we haven’t had to argue with him to get him to go to!” I have seen this again and again – a child cannot find his or her niche in his community, but the first time he steps foot into our little world it feels to him as if he has come home. But is it important that a child find his or her niche?
It seems it is. We are a society of labels, and if a child is not comfortable in the world of school or sports or computers or whatever it is that many of his fellows are making that all important name for themselves in, he feels bereft and lonesome. Our hope is always for our children to be happy with who they are and stand up for their principles independent of what their peers think, but this is not aways practical, and our children deserve to be surrounded at times by people who understand and share the same interests that they do.
And so youth theatre can be one such place where a child may find a sense of belonging. Where he may discover people he can relate to, can communicate well with, and who accept and understand him for the unique individual he is.
Is a youth theatre program the answer for every child? Not necessarily. I have seen children pushed into youth theatre programs; children who would rather do anything than stand on stage and speak out. It is possible that in time these children will become more comfortable with the idea, but is it worth pushing for? I prefer to think that a child who responds this way is either not ready yet for the youth theatre experience, or is indeed a child who will never be comfortable onstage.
And so no, youth theatre is not for everybody. It is just one more activity a child may choose from as they grow and change and experience the world. We hope they will enjoy it and thrive here. It is possible that they may not. But whatever your child chooses, we are happy to be one of the many programs he may choose from, and hope that whatever he finds here will be in some way beneficial, and will add to his life experience in a positive and creative way.