by Ashley Frary
“Theatre forces us to put down our phones and put our social skills to the test.”
IN TODAY’S WORLD, we have so many options to connect and express ourselves. We can post thoughts, ideas, music, videos or pictures to a plethora of social media platforms and reach almost any person we want. This is incredible! While it’s true we have gained much, many of us are witnessing something else – a loss. We are losing our face-to-face time with each other. Our interactions with other human beings are shrinking.
Here’s the thing: no matter how technology shapes our lives today, personal connections will always have a massive impact on our happiness and our ability to succeed in the world. If you apply for a job online, you know you’re still going to need to eventually interview in person, right?
This is what theatre is all about! Our student actors experience intensive and focused in-person connections. For example, in camp rehearsals, we practice Active Listening. I tell my students to focus all of their attention onto what their partner is saying on stage. While these are typically lines that we’ve rehearsed before, the students attempt to listen to them as though it is the first time they have heard those words. It’s amazing what that can do!
In the performance, we see actors who know and deliver the true essence of the story. Even more importantly, we also see these wonderful, three-dimensional characters that really relate to each other AND the audience.
Imagine if we practiced this in our everyday lives! What if we learned how to listen in a way that supported our fellow humans in a similar manner to how actors support each other in a performance? What would we discover about each other if we strove to hear and understand each word as it came to us without the distraction of a phone alert? What if we had enough practice at this that we could actually respond in a relevant, empathetic way?
The answer? We would make connections – stronger and deeper and more enduring connections. With the ability to effectively communicate with others, we can create circles of people around us that will become our life-long friends, our work associates, our mentors and our true social family. THIS is the stuff that contributes to long, healthy, happy lives. And this is what we do in youth theatre.
Theatre forces us to put down our phones and put our social skills to the test. Young actors learn how to read facial expression and body language. They learn how to listen – really listen – to each other. Not just that, but along with performance comes acting instruction, where we break down characters’ thoughts and feelings to better understand them. We learn to empathize with our characters, and in turn we learn what it means to empathize with real people as well.
During our camps here at Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids, we keep our phones out of sight. In the place of that small screen, we hand our students something else: the opportunity to gain an unbreakable social confidence that will support them for the rest of their lives.
Now. Put that screen away, and listen!