Gillian Lynn, the choreographer for the famous Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals: Cats and Phantom of the Opera, was asked by author Sir Ken Robinson how she had become a dancer. Gillian says that as a young child in school, she had become increasingly distracting because of her inability to sit still. She went before the principal on many occasions until finally, her mother was summoned. The principal demanded that the child, about eight years old at the time, be taken to a doctor to diagnose her illness. After she and her mother had consulted for a few minutes, the doctor asked Gillian to sit quietly while he and her mother had a consultation outside the room. But before he left, he turned on the radio. He left the door open a crack and instructed her mother to stand outside with him. Gillian was up immediately, dancing to the music on the radio. The doctor turned to Gillian’s mother and said. “Your child is not ill. She is a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” And her mother did. The rest is history.
Imagination is such a valuable tool. Why do educators stress the importance of reading to your children early and often? Why do people say that sitting your child in front of a TV for hours can be detrimental? Why is it important to play and imagine? Theatre stimulates the imagination.
When I was young, I could sit for hours and read books or daydream or write. Now, the American public has been conditioned to take a break every few seconds. The TV flashes images at us and we have built in commercials so we can check our emails or Facebook. We have noises, pictures and music available everywhere. Because of that we don’t pay attention very well. If we don’t pay attention, how can we expect our children to?
Many of us are visual learners but studies have concluded that students who attended a live performance of a play retain more knowledge than those who watched a movie of the same subject. Students who are exposed to the arts at an early age learn a greater appreciation for the arts. Those students grow up to be well-rounded adults.
There are social benefits of theatre. Trips to live theater enhance literary knowledge, tolerance and empathy among students. We can teach our children to respect other cultures, personalities and talents. Watching live theatre engages the child in a personal way allowing him to connect with the characters on stage almost transporting him into the mind of the character, thus achieving a deeper understanding. I was very shy when I was young. I was insecure and felt as if I had no talent or ability that was worth anything. My aunt took me to my first play when I was in sixth grade. Life-changing.
Whether this is your first play or your last, please talk about it with your child. Discuss. Teach. Question. Lead. You just might find that these become some of your most treasured moments.
Sponsored by “Madagascar – Overshadowed Theatrical Productions”.