Why is theater important for children?
is believed to be the oldest artistic expression known to man. Long before the written word, and probably before language itself, body movement and facial expressions conveyed information—warnings, joy, despair, anger, fear, celebration, and other communication necessary to building a healthy social system. In every culture, dance and story carry the history of the group and give it expression in ways accessible to every member. Because body language reaches levels of understanding that far exceed any other form of transmission, it is one of our most intrinsic response mechanisms, both in expression and reception. When words fail, the body takes over.
allows students of every description to engage with their learning on levels both basic and sophisticated. It builds communication skills, encourages cooperation, and teaches critical thinking skills, all in the context of great fun and positive feedback. When this kind of direct involvement is applied to drama, the learning is enriched beyond measure.
Belief in the value of hands-on learning...
led us to create plays for our students that simultaneously serve multiple purposes: presentation of classic literature in a kid-friendly form; exposure to language in a context that expands both thinking and vocabularies; meeting and exceeding model content standards for drama, language arts and social studies; learning basic theater skills in a fun and exciting setting; integrating arts into costume and set design, and more..."
Although the traditional canon of literature still exists in the English-speaking culture, some people associate the classics, when taught by rote in high school or college, as ordeals to be survived rather than opportunities for enlightenment. However, this brilliant literature has survived centuries and millennia because its themes are timeless; often the missing element is method of presentation.
It is our hope that we can engender in our children a love for the classics by presenting them early through the action-packed context of drama. Kids who participate in a child-size version of “Macbeth” or “Romeo and Juliet” invariably carry forward a love of Shakespeare. Those who perform “Beowulf” or “Don Quixote”, or any other classic book in kid-size dramatic form, soon own these tales and incorporate their messages about loyalty, honor, courage and other human themes into their developing personal ethic. Early introduction encourages an interest in all kinds of classic literature as part of lifelong learning and allows kids to draw from this experience as, later in their academic careers, they encounter original versions of the literature upon which these plays are based.
Rather than exclusively use language that kids can read or hear in everyday conversation, we have deliberately included many words rarely found in the vernacular of children. This conscious use of unusual terminology is quite effective for some of the following reasons:
• Repeated exposure to words in context makes them accessible. After all, it’s how every child learns language; sprinkling a bit of challenging vocabulary through our scripts heightens their sophistication while allowing kids to expand their working vocabulary.
• Kids are hungry for anything new, including words, and love acquiring and using them, particularly those that are strong and vivid. A broad vocabulary, as we know, is empowering, both in speaking and writing.
• Kids subconsciously absorb associations among words containing common components. Cognates allow vocabularies to grow by leaps and bounds.
Rhyme and Reason... and Memorization...
Long ago, before the time of writing, storytellers played a vital role in preserving the history and traditions of their cultures. Because it was necessary to use a system of memorization in order to recall a lengthy and complex sequence of events more effectively, they discovered rhyme and meter hastened and eased the process. Although we now rely on the written word, the smallest child can easily memorize a Mother Goose rhyme, and, when seniors recite poetry from their childhoods, it’s invariably metrical.
Because the brain has a natural affinity for cadence, beginning with a mother’s heartbeat, it welcomes this pattern as an old friend. Therefore, our dramatic versions of classic literature are all written in rhyming quatrains, enabling the memorization time to be cut at least in half. Kids can often memorize their parts in only a few days!!"
Credits to Stagestruck Plays
From Kirsten Morgan and Jennifer Fay, Stagestruck Playwrights who adapted the original works into kid friendly plays for 3rd through 12th grade.