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Children and theater
September 26, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

For the second year, my 7-year-old daughter has participated in a Watertown River City’s Theater company production. This year’s production was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

This is the theater company’s fifth production in the four years of its existence. There were five performances over two week-ends. Try-outs took place in the beginning of August. Practices began shortly after. Within a month and a half of a lot of hard work by the cast and crew and other volunteers, the performance was put together.

My daughter was cast as Toto, which meant that she was at every practice and on stage for the whole show. The theater cast and crew has become like a family to her.

The theater opportunities are made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts council and a grant from the McKnight Foundation and an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature.

The productions are presented in partnership with the company’s fiscal sponsors Independent School District 111. Practices and performances are at the Watertown-Mayer High School performing arts center, which is a lovely theater. There is not a bad seat in the house.

With three children under 14, we have our share of school, athletic, and club activities to try to be on time for. Was this extra activity worth it? My answer is, “Yes, definitely!”

My daughter has never been, what I would call, shy, but I have noticed that she has come out of her shell even more since being involved in this production.

Experts seem to agree that drama has several benefits for children, among these are:

• Imagination – even little Toto was encouraged to imagine how a dog would react to various situations in the play and to use her imagination to express herself in new ways.

• Confidence – in a dramatic setting, children can take risks in a controlled atmosphere and get feedback from the audience. They then realize that they can rely on their abilities.

• Communication – other than a few barks, one would think that playing Toto is not difficult, but you would be amazed at the range of non-verbal communication that is developed though the rehearsals of a play. Those with speaking parts are able to get feedback from the audience and, in that way, improve the effectiveness of their communication.

• Time management – from day one, my daughter was told by her theater companions that in theater “If you’re on time, you’re late.” She has realized that, as in life, people depend on you to be on time and to be ready to do your tasks.

• Physical and emotional outlets – a play will let your children express themselves in a whole range of emotions. All productions require movement and coordination of the actors, and musicals can give their participants quite a workout.

• Fun – perhaps the best benefit of all.