What theater can teach your child - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

What theater can teach your child

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Lisa Walton

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Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 7:45 am | Updated: 1:35 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

There are many soccer and hockey moms out there. In our family it is basketball; we spend a lot of time running to games and practices. However, first and foremost I am a theater mom. No, not one of those scary stage moms portrayed on shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras,” but I am a huge advocate for children’s theater. In fact, for the past five years our second home has been Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre (ACT). We spend a lot of time volunteering and helping raise awareness of the theater because we value it so much. There are so many benefits to the performing arts that I try to share with others, but there are also some myths that need to be dispelled.

Myth: You already have to know how to sing/act/dance

Truth: You do not need to have those skills already to participate. Singing, acting, and dancing are skills that you learn just like anything else. While some children may have a natural ability for these things, their talents can be honed through formal classes. Our children’s theater teaches all of those skills and proper techniques. They offer classes, lessons, and camps for all age groups of kids with varying levels of experience. Classes and camps offer parts in shows for everyone who signs up. Auditions occur within the class/camp setting for principle parts. The running mantra in our theater is that “there are no small parts, just small actors.”

Myth: Theater isn’t beneficial for boys

Truth: There are many boys involved in theater. My son has several older mentors and alas, idols in our theater. They are great role models for him to look up to and go to for advice and support.

Boys (or girls for that matter) shouldn’t have to choose between sports and the arts.

In addition, children in this day and age should not be defined by what activity they participate in. My son plays basketball and does theater. In fact, he fancies himself a younger Troy Bolton. But neither of those things DEFINE him. That is one thing I love about theater, it’s accepting and finds a place for everyone. It gives kids a chance to feel important and feel like they belong somewhere.

Myth: Theater is just for fun, they don’t really learn anything important

Truth: In addition to singing, acting, and dancing, musical theater teaches important life skills. It teaches children creativity and how to use their imagination. It teaches them to become a team player and cooperation. It teaches respect, acceptance and responsibility. Kids gain confidence and learn critical public speaking skills. It improves their memory skills, music and language skills. But yes, most importantly they learn by having fun.

When my son was in first grade we enrolled in a summer camp program at Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre. They performed “Cinderella.” He was asked to be the Prince, but vehemently refused. He just wanted to be a mouse, or a towns person, lacking the confidence to do a bigger role. But by the end of camp, he was hooked. Not only did he sign up for a class in the fall, but he eagerly auditioned and accepted the role of Prince Phillip in “Sleeping Beauty.” Of course, getting to carry a sword and slay a dragon may have also been an incentive.

I have seen huge growth in my son since he started in theater five years ago. He’s no longer afraid to get up in front of the class. Actually, now he loves oral presentations and school performances. He looks people in the eye and speaks clearly and directly to them. His confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, this year he not only ran for student council, he campaigned to be president. He lives to perform, anywhere, any time. He even shocked me and looked somewhat calm during the school spelling bee this year.

While theater may not be your child’s life passion; the lessons they learn from theater will last them a lifetime.

Have your kids try out theater this summer.

Ahwatukee Children’s Theater has summer camps for ages 5-19 and they will be performing “Cinderella” next month at Chandler Center for the Arts. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our kids to perform on a professional stage.

ACT is also hosting camps for kids in grades K-6 to do “Flat Stanley’s Musical Adventures” in June and July. ACT offers a vocal camp and an audition workshop, too.

For more information, go to www.azact.org.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lisa Walton is a Valley teacher and mother.

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