The 10-year-old boy stood on stage, without a script, reciting his lines nearly perfectly.
Me? I can't even remember my cell phone number.
For the last two weeks I've watched as my 8-year-old daughter and a dozen other children learn their lines, cues and marks for a pair of children's plays that continue this weekend and next at the Harbor Performing Arts Center in Harbor.
Within that two-weeks period the child actors, ages 5 to 12, have gone from meekly singing lullabies during their auditions to exuberantly embracing their characters opening night. The transformation has been amazing!
Don't tell my daughter or her theater mates, but the stage is really a classroom, designed to let the students have fun while learning to focus, collaborate with one another and build their confidences.
Director Dori Blodgett, with her cleverly-cloaked lessons, not only develops the children's natural acting abilities, but enhances their memory and listening skills. Most importantly, being on stage promotes and celebrates each child's sense of humor, individuality and creativity. (Not to mention overcoming stage fright.) In other words, their stage skills become life skills. And who wouldn't want to support that?
So how do you introduce your children to theater? I'm no expert, but here's what seems to have worked for my wife and me.
First, take your child to see some local plays, particularly those with a familiar storyline and characters that appeal to your child. Both the Chetco Pelican Players and Brookings-Harbor Community Theater offer several children's plays each year. Most of the adult-oriented plays these groups offer are appropriate for teenagers.
Check the regular play reviews in the Pilot to determine which plays best match your child's age and interests. Also, ask other parents and teachers who have attended a play. I've found that people directly involved in the theater andndash; the director, cast members and support staff andndash; are more than happy to answer questions such as how child-oriented is the play, if there are any scary parts, will children understand the story or get the humor.
It's also important to check how long the play is, to make sure it doesn't exceed your child's attention span. After the show, talk with them about the experience. How did it make them feel? What was their favorite character, costume or musical number?
Whether our children are on stage or in the seats, the theater can be wonderfully fun for them, as well as a great learning experience and something that they'll always remember.
My daughter started her acting "career" watching from the audience. It didn't take long before she wanted to be on stage. I bet there are many children out there just waiting for the opportunity.
Of course there wouldn't be theater without audiences. Going to a play is not only a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment, but an opportunity to support children doing something other than watching TV or playing video games.
I encourage everyone to attend a local children's theater production. The tickets are cheap and the experience andndash; for all of us andndash; is priceless.