Sunday, November 19, 2017

I am so grateful that our school gave kids a chance this year to take part in a real theater performance.
There is a lot of talk in California about kids having different educational experiences based on their race. I'd say that the real difference is brought about by families' socio-economic situation and parental involvement in their lives. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood, which means an active Home and School Club (aka PTO) organization that is able to raise funds for many enrichment activities done outside of school hours. Besides regular school donations (a suggested amount in our school is $500 per child), HSC runs a number of other fund raising activities including a fall festival, a spring Walk-a-thon, and an auction. The result is that even in the situation of shrinking school budgets teachers have extra money to spend on materials for the classroom, each class has two field trips every year, and HSC can contract with outside vendors to bring after school enrichment programs in.
The theater program by itself is also a fund raiser, because parents pay both for participation and for tickets (financial aid is available for families who need it). However, HSC first needs to pay the vendor, so this is why general fund raising is useful for those "pay upfront" situations. And it's not just money that makes theater program happen. Running it successfully requires tons of volunteer support. Yes, our vendor Starting Arts brings the play itself, has a director and a choreographer, and provides lights, stage props, mikes, and costumes for a week of dress rehearsals and performances, but parent volunteers handle kids before and during rehearsals, help backstage, donate goods for concession stands, and help with set up and clean up.
This year, the play was opened to kids from grades 3 to grades 8 and more than 70 kids wanted to participate including two boys who were interested in tech aspects of running a play but did not want to be on stage. Honestly, I felt that The Little Mermaid was a bit emotionally tricky for middle schoolers. What boy is brave enough to be Prince Eric and have to "kiss the girl"? Luckily, two brave souls (one a fifth grader and one sixth grader) stepped forward and carried this big role with poise and commitment without dissolving into a fit of giggles on stage. The reason we needed two boys was because we had two independent casts, and each cast had two performances in the last two days of the theater program.
I was very impressed with talent we have in our school. Several kids are involved in acting classes and voice lessons outside of school, and they were cast very well and very appropriately in lead roles. Smarty had a relatively minor role of Flotsam, but it was perfect for her as she shines in "comic relief" roles that don't require a lot of singing. Sadly, she did not connect much with her Jetsam, but they pulled up a decently synchronized performance and made audience laugh.
Theater participation is a major time investment for kids, especially for kids who have a lot of lines and songs to learn. As a project manager who is always looking for improvement, I think that rehearsals could have been much optimized. However, kids stuck with long hours, worked outside of rehearsals to memorize their lines and pulled the show together despite rough dress rehearsals and a lot of last minute changes. I could not be more proud of them.
During rehearsals Smarty was saying that she does not want to do another show next year, because she disliked having to sit around and do nothing for two hours. However, there is something magical to be on stage in a costume with a mike on performing in front of live audience. She is now hoping that middle schoolers are included in the next year's play, so she can have another year of theater in middle school. Drama is one of her favorite things, so we are also hoping that she might want to continue with it as an elective when she enters high school - it's hard to believe that this move is already so close at hand.

Your Turn

Are your kids involved in performing arts? What kind?

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I agree that it is mainly about socioeconomics. It's just that race and socioeconomics tend to be tied in the US, but I find the dislike of addressing the socioeconomics side frustrating.

A good theater program is priceless. My kids' school has a visiting program every other year that 3-5th grade students can participate in. The three older kids sing in choirs, and Emma is in a string quartet.

Phyllis Bergenholtz said...

This has been a topic on my mind for some time as I have a son who wants to be an actor and, as we homeschool, does not have the acting opportunities as his peers in public or private school have. I have been the producer/director for a few productions with a local homeschool group, including one dinner theater performance. I, however, became overwhelmed trying to do it all myself. He has done some work with the community theater, but there is little opportunity for a 13 year old, and we find ourselves having to reach further and further out to find more opportunities for him. It has been quite difficult.

Ticia said...

Wow $500 a kid! That's my budget for all 3 kids for curriculum for the year.

But, I totally agree it's completely depenedent on socioeconomics, and like Maryanne said, that is often tied to race. The more willing/able to be involved a family is the better.