Joys Of Watching Children In The Arts
By Big Sexy
Lee was a shy 3rd grader in a Las Vegas elementary school when I first met him. His mother had signed him up for Drama Kids, an after-school theater program that focuses on play and confidence through theater games and ideals.
I was the teacher of the class which consisted of 15 more fellow students and peers ranging from 3rd to 5th grade. Each class began with an introduction game and I would watch Lee watch the class and just stand there. When confronted he would look up at me with those eyes that said “please stop talking to me, I’m too embarrassed.” This continued for about 4 weeks. On the 5th week I introduced the class to gibberish which is my favorite exercise. Lee was engaged. He embraced the idea of not having to say real words and could make up his own language. He played with the other students and had fun. The ice had broken. Each of the following weeks found Lee participating more often than not.
Fast forward 2 years. Now in 5th grade, Lee is usually the first to volunteer, excited about getting the larger roles and has some of the most creative characters you can imagine. I have had the privilege of watching this child grow and become more confident and sure of himself thanks to the aspects of theater training.
Exercises in voice, movement, memorization and fun have built a potential CEO or Oscar winning individual.
My love for teaching kids has been with me for many years. When I was younger I always said I never wanted to be a teacher. My mother was an elementary school teacher. She taught 1st grade mainly and when I was in 5th grade she became the reading specialist at my school. Yes, the same school I was a student at. GROSS! So my education was very important and I hated every minute of it. Plus, on a side note, it’s difficult to misbehave when your instructors can just call your mom on over to the classroom to set you right. I grew up wanting to do anything other than teaching. That lasted until I got to college and there was a theater program that told stories to kids and then played games with them. The Imagination Players, or IMPS as we called it, became my passion. Going into schools and performing children’s stories for the school kids was so uplifting and rewarding.
After graduation my school offered me a job at their new conservatory for the arts. I was an office manager and when they asked me to teach the youth acting class I jumped at the offer. #neversaynever. This class was where I met Fatima, age 13. My very first shy student. Many years prior to Lee. Fatima had a love for theater but was intimidated by the spotlight. I took joy in every moment she would perform in class and watched as her fellow students gave her praise for her skills. She began to blossom as an actor and realized she had nothing to fear and her dreams were actually attainable.
Fatima has since graduated from Texas State with a theater degree and has her eyes set on Broadway.
I currently belong to 4 different organizations that involve getting children interested in theater. The Shakespeare Institute of Nevada, Drama Kids International, Jesters High School Improv and Ants In The Pants Productions. Each group is a different aspect of theater and I get to flex those particular muscles while educating kids in those fields as well. Shakespeare Institute speaks for itself, Drama Kids is theater game based education, Jesters High School Improv is, well, improv and Ants In The Pants helps kids learn to create stories and focuses on the writers instead of the actors.
There is a satisfaction to these kids finding the courage to get on stage or getting a chance to tell a story in their own way, watching them take risks in improv competitions or hearing The Bard and actually understanding it for the first time. Creating the next generations of actors, playwrights, designers, performers, singers, dancers can often feel more satisfying than doing any of these things myself. Knowing that my teaching is shaping and molding and nurturing a love for the arts fills a hole I hadn’t realized existed. If you haven’t ever had the chance to witness confidence find its way into a child or watch that confidence lead them to take a lead role, sing a solo or write a full length story then you are truly missing out on one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Remedy that as fast as you can.
Make a difference in our next generation.
If you want more information, would like to donate to, or get involved with any of the companies I mentioned, here are their websites.