Take a Bow, It’s Good For You

Have you ever seen magic happen?  Real life magic that only happens when true love or persistence or, in this case, theater occurs?  For the past two weeks I have watched a show that I’ve been working on since November go up on stage.  The organization that I work for provides theater and visual arts for youth and adults with disabilities, so most of the actors have a disability of some kind –  physical, mental or emotional. We are an inclusive organization so we take people with and without disabilities. We take anyone who needs a home on stage.

There is always a bit of magic in theater, especially when working with youth.  The amount of magic I have seen over the past two years with this population has blown me away.  People come to us who can barley speak and end up singing, dancing and delivering lines with a smile on their face. Children who are unable to focus in any other forum stand on stage for hours while we work out scenes, songs and choreography.  That is magic like I have never seen it.

When I walked into the backstage area to see my actors for the last two weekends it was like a breath of fresh air. With all of the ugliness in our world and our politics I find it to refreshing to be in a place that is untouched by those things, though only for the moments when the magic of the stage is alive.

In truth, because of the ugliness and lack of compassion in our system, programs like this are in danger.  The organization I work for had to split from its international partner when the funding was cut by the government. This year we scrambled and fund-raised to make the magic happen. And we will have to continue to do so.

Those who have not worked in the theater do not understand the magic it possesses.  I strongly believe every public servant should spend one year involved in theater, backstage, working with children, or people with disabilities or even going through the collaborative process of being an actor onstage.

Studies have proven that:

  • Students involved in drama performance coursework or experience outscored non-arts students on the 2005 SAT by an average of 65 points in the verbal component and 34 points in the math component
  • Drama activities improve reading comprehension, and both verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Drama helps to improve school attendance and reduce high school dropout rates
  • Drama can improve skills and academic performance in children and youth with learning disabilities
  • Students considered to be at high risk for dropping out of high school cite drama and other arts classes as their motivations for staying in school.
  • 93 percent of Americans believe that the arts are essential to a complete education
  • 79 percent feel that the arts should be a priority in education reform
  • 79 percent consider the issues facing arts education to be significant enough to merit their personally taking action.

And yet, funding is continually pulled from these important programs, so we can drill for oil and fight wars.  Yes, before serving in government our elected officials should be required to put a minimum of one-year into theater.  I have a feeling that we would be left with many fewer politicians and a much better world.