Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"If your not having fun teaching, they aren't having fun learning!"

(thank you Angie Sweigart-Gallagher for all the great pictures used in this post)

When I tell people that I want to pursue a career in theatre education, most of them don’t fully understand why that would be appealing unless they too are lovers of the arts. To me, theatre education isn’t just about putting fancy costumes on a child and teaching them how to do a cute routine on stage for their parents to video tape. Instead, it’s about being able to harvest children’s imagination and creativity in order for them to realize the amazing things each of them are capable of. As I spent my last four years of college completing a double major in theatre and elementary education, I began to realize how much my experience in theatre positively impacted my teaching ability. Instead of fearing the inventiveness a child’s mind, I was able to use it to my advantage and create lessons that allowed my students to have fun as well as learn. For example, instead of teaching third graders how to add and subtract money with worksheets and fake money (which can be boring to both teacher and students), I used theatrical elements to bring those students into the world of a restaurant and have them truly put their skills to the test. How exactly do I go about doing that? Well let's just say I’m not afraid to throw on a silly costume and frantically enter the class begging for help with my restaurant now that all of my penguin waiters have decided to go on a swim break.

(one of my silliest costumes in Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island)

In that moment, I’m instantly able to see a shift of atmosphere in my class, and not only are the students excited to be there, but it serves as a constant reminder for myself of how much I love my job. It’s truly amazing how something as simple as teaching in role can encourage students to learn and participate far more than they would have in a regular classroom setting.
That is one of the many reasons why I believe children should have the opportunity to be involved in some sort of arts program. Even if they don’t want to be on stage for the rest of their lives, being involved with theatre as a child, teaches them more then just how to perform. It teaches them self confidence, community building, problem solving, creative thinking, how to embrace curiosity and discovery, meet new friends, and most importantly, to have fun. With every theatre camp I have taught, I have never experience a child or parent who was not grateful to have been a part of the program. While being involved with these programs, I learned that it was through first hand experience that the parent and child were truly able to understand the importance of the arts. Therefore, I don't think that what I write in this blog should be the only reason that you should agree with me about why theatre education is so important. Instead, I invite you to be a part of this experience with a child. Even if you’re not a parent, take a niece, nephew, brother, sister, or even just a friend whose parents may not have the opportunity to take them, to go see Endstation Theatre’s production of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island by Joshua Mikel. When you take them to this performance, don’t just sit back and watch the show (although we do want you to enjoy yourself!) but pay close attention to your young person.

Watch them react to what they are experiencing, see them engaged in the world of the play, participate because they want to, get excited when the character Rosa accomplishes a difficult task, laugh as the silly antics of Chomps and Hal, or show respect in the presence of the Idol. Just by watching how much fun your child can have within that hour of this play could be more reason then I could ever give you as to how influential theatre can be for young people.
Although my time with Endstation must come to a close after the final performance of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island this weekend, any opportunity I get to work with young people is one that I shall treasure. Not only will I remember it for the fun I have had with all the company members and supporters, but it was during this experience that I got offered my next big adventure in Colorado where I will begin work as a Teaching Artist at Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids starting June 9th!
I hope you are all able to see this wonderful production as well as all the others at Endstation this summer and most importantly, have fun doing it :)

-Melissa Porcaro 
(Actor and Teaching Artist)

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