Musical theatre is a blessing for children. I say this not as a writer, an academic, or a priest, but as a performer and a lover of Broadway shows and old musical theatre films. Theatrical shows and stage performances have filled both my childhood and adult life, and I have found that theatre mimics life. When I co-founded Musical Theatre for KIDS in Bangkok, with Youngji Kim, in 2013, we wanted to pass on these life lessons to the children that fill our workshops. Here they are:
“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again” – Swing time
Most people know the saying, “The show must go on”, its cliché, but true. In theatre, I was taught that if I made a mistake, to make it loud and then kept going. As I have grown up and have been faced with life’s hiccups, heartbreaks, and disappoints, it has been a key idea that has kept me moving forward. Just like the momentum of the scene has to move even when lines are forgotten, we must persevere through the momentum of life even when things don’t go our way.
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde
In acting it is taught that to create an authentic scene, you must listen to the other person and only once you have listened can you respond. Only when actors listen to each other on stage, can they provide an authentic and empathetic answer. How often in life do we forget to listen? So often we react before we have let other people finish their ‘lines’. The theatrical stage has been my rehearsal for the real stage of life. It has helped me practice the art of listening, so that I may be more understanding, less reactive and more responsive.
“Well I say try, I say, laugh at the kings or they'll make you cry, lose your poise
fall if you have to, but lady make a noise” – Anyone Can Whistle
On stage I have always been encouraged to express myself, to accept being silly or doing something that in real life would be judged. This practice of stepping outside of oneself has given me the confidence to do things differently; to move away from the crowd; to take risks in life. When one goes on stage it is a bit like choosing to jump off a cliff. You can stay on the cliff and stay static, or jump with the potential to soar. Every time I have had the courage to “jump”, I have learned something new about myself and about what I am capable of.
Commitment and self-discipline.
“One morning Sis won't go to dance class I grabbed her shoes and tights and all,
But my foot's too small, so, I stuff her shoes with extra socks, run seven blocks
In nothin' flat. Hell, I can do that, I can do that.” – A Chorus Line
There is a huge time commitment when one joins a show. Rehearsals are timely and take up much of one’s evenings and weekends. There is also the commit to learning lines. Lines have to be learned at home in your additional time, and that takes discipline. The discipline and commitment of the theatre has taught me that to do anything well, time and commitment need to be invested.
Another lesson of commitment I have found so vital in life is having commitment to the character I play. This goes along with the last concept of courage, as again to commit 100% to the character can be risky. What will others think? What if I look silly? The commitment to the character, to the situation, the self-discipline of giving my absolute best in whatever role I am in, helps me every day as an adult.
“With you for me and me for you we’ll muddle through whatever we do, together wherever we go” – Gypsy
A scene, like life, is a negotiation. A scene involves several people all with different needs and motivations. They all want something. When I am in a scene with fellow actors we are working together, as fellow actors and also as our characters, and we have to work together! If one person “pulls” the scene, it throws off the balance. In life, when one person tries to control the situation, it causes friction. The stage is the perfect playing field to test what happens when there is teamwork present and when there is not.
These five principles are a few of many that I have learned from my experience on the stage. They have made me a stronger version of the person I am.
There are many factors to shaping a child, but from my own experience, a child with theater in their life is a child that has one more advantage at discovering their potential as a human being. Musical Theatre for KIDS carries this as part of our ethos and we hope to continue to pass on theatre’s life lessons for many seasons to come.
For more about Musical Theatre for KIDS please visit www.musicaltheatreforkids.com