written by Kelly Moynahan of HITS Theater
photos by Gulf Coast Shots
Your child comes home after school and tells you they want to audition for the school play or take a musical theater class with a friend. They know it will be fun but do they know there is a hidden magic in there too?
We have all experienced the magic of theater. The theater is dark and the lights come up slowly as we begin to hear the music play. Beautiful sets take shape and create the scene. Characters in costume come alive. We are drawn in, it is magical. It is theater! There is also theater magic that is not quite so visible, it is the hidden magic of the theater. It is powerful and can be life-long. It is the magic that is hidden within the process of making the art and can make a profound impact on your child with skills they will take with them as they grow.
SECRET INGREDIENT #1–REASONABLE RISK
Magic can feel like a tingle or for some like butterflies in your stomach. Risk can feel the same way. The first day a child enters the theater for a production, or a school play they are taking a risk. They are making themselves vulnerable in front of a large audience. “What if I am not good enough?” What if someone laughs?” Looking around the stage, they will quickly realize they are not alone. All of their cast members are with them on stage. Everyone is taking the same risk and while the fear may not go away at first, it becomes manageable with a few more secret ingredients.
SECRET INGREDIENT #2–RESPONSIBILITY
Theater will take your child to new and magical places and they will need their script to get there. It is their map and it is important. They will not know how to get where they are going without it, they must be responsible with it. They will also need some tools to create their magic, like costumes and props. They will learn the importance of checking for all their costume parts and placing their own props in advance of the performance. They will understand the need to put their props and costume pieces back where they belong so they are ready for the next performance.
SECRET INGREDIENT #3–PREPAREDNESS
In stories where magic plays a major role, good seems to win over evil when everyone can count on each other and work together. In theater, the entire cast counts on each other. When a cast member does not know their part they hold the rest of the cast up. Children learn quickly that to be prepared for formal rehearsals they will need to spend extra time rehearsing their lines, songs and dances at home so they do not let down the other cast members.
SECRET INGREDIENT #4–TIME MANAGEMENT
Magic has a time limit and if a cast member is not on time the magic can fade. A child will learn the importance of being on time and know exactly how much time they have to accomplish the task at hand. Timing is critical for entrances, exits, and costume changes. Even when on stage, a child begins to gain a sense of timing when they learn to pause and wait for the laughs or applause.
SECRET INGREDIENT #5–QUICK THINKING
Magic can be tricky and when not done exactly correct a cast member will learn to be quick thinking. It can happen when a child forgets a line, misses an entrance, or spins the wrong way. In early rehearsals, the director will stop the scene and let everyone practice the magic again. As opening night approaches, rehearsals are not stopped and your child will learn how to improvise and think quick on their feet. They will figure it out on their own or with the help of their fellow cast members.
SECRET INGREDIENT #6–BEING RESPECTFUL
Theater magic is powerful and should be respected. It is important not to talk over someone else’s lines. A child learns that everyone has to be heard and be able to do his or her part uninterrupted. They learn to respect their cast members time, space, and talents so when it is their turn they get the same respect. That is no easy task and it requires good listening skills, concentration, patience, and practice.
HIDDEN INGREDIENT #7–SELF-CONFIDENCE
This last bit of magic is the most beautiful and it comes at the end of a performance when the final bows are taken and your child realizes they did it! There is no doubt in their mind they could do it again. Your applause and big smiles tell them they succeeded and should be proud of what they have accomplished.
This magic is hard, it takes practice, and it builds character. Your child will use these magic ingredients wherever they go. They may not realize they have this magic, but it will come out when they need it most. Maybe at a school presentation, when telling a family story, or simply putting their backpack by the door for school tomorrow. Now that is some magic!