There are many skills and benefits that children receive from involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater arts programs. Creativity and imagination are some of the first benefits people list when talking about the value of a theater arts education and experiences.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to appear on WNPR’s Where We Live with John Dankosky to discuss the topic of creativity. The discussion between panelists Constanza Gowen-Segovia (CO LAB), Louise Loomis, Ed.D (Thinkwell Center) and the Watkinson School Creative Arts Program students has really stuck with me. (Listen here) It was a broad, wide ranging discussion and we only began to touch the subject of creativity.
I have been thinking a great deal about creativity in the wake of our conversation, and how to re-frame what it is that we do at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. In particular, I’ve been considering the way society values creativity. It is very much in the forefront of our current economic environment to talk about the new economy, and the importance of innovation. "Innovate" is simply another way of saying "create". So, if we are going to prepare our young people to be innovative, we need to build their creativity.
Creativity is something that you need to practice. As with any skill, one needs to work to develop and refine creativity. That is one of the benefits of continued involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater. It is an opportunity for a young person to have their creativity exercised. Just as students go to sports and music practices, creativity and imagination need to be exercised and pushed to the limit.
All of the “creating” that goes on in each rehearsal comes with other benefits as well. Students become quick thinkers, they improvise and they learn to work through scenarios in advance and feel prepared when something unexpected happens. This helps them learn to handle the anxiety that comes along with so many aspects of life—such as a school project, a business presentation, speaking in front of colleagues or sharing an original idea.
Oddfellows’ spring session begins the week of April 1, and is full of opportunities for children ages 3-18 to exercise their creativity. The youngest students in Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 have classes that are designed to get them used to using their creativity and sharing it with their peers. Think of it like riding a tricycle, then a bicycle with training wheels. Students in Story Starters (grades 2-3) can create a Mini-Production based on the West African folktale of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Not only are they creating characters and story, but they are considering a “Cinderella” tale from a different cultural point of view. The Kids Company (grades 4-5) can explore Fundamentals of Musical Theater and Comedy and Improv. Junior Rep (grades 6-8) can give their imaginations a serious workout with How To Deliver a Monologue and Intro to Playwrighting. Our Teen Rep (grades 9-12) also has an opportunity to discover their unique voice with Intro to Playwrighting and Intro to Directing classes. Complete class descriptions and information can be found at www.oddfellows.org . Registration is available online or by calling 860-347-6143.
Written by Matthew J. Pugliese, Executive Director