Every so often I get asked how I found my way into the world of theatre; and every time I questions what they mean by “world of theatre”. When I three I used to dress up in tutus, cowboy hats and fairy wings–does that count? Or how about when I was in kindergarten and my teacher had us put on shows every Friday about that week’s “letter Land” character (G was my favorite). I went to a summer camp that had us write our own stories and create our own plays from 1st grade through 3rd grade–how about that? Oh, none of those count? What do you mean?
That is often what I want to say. Generally I state how I was introduced to the world of theatre in 4th grade through a company that I have worked with for the last 12 years. There I was introduced to both improv and stage management… blah blah blah… And although I love this company, I can’t help but think that my theatrical career began when I was three dressing myself and letting my imagination run wild.
As artists our greatest tool is our imagination. We are paid (hopefully) to create something out of nothing- that takes imagination and creativity; the same imagination and creative impulse that you had when you were 3. This impulse to follow our creative instinct started when we were younger and we were all fortunate to find outlets that allowed these impulses to grow. For some of us it was when we were 5 and for some perhaps it was when we were a little older but we all were influenced in some way to join the theatre community.
For most of us the greatest influences came from some form of children’s theatre. It is these shows that spark something inside of us and for some allow us to realize that this is what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Children’s theatre is so powerful that it can stick with you long enough to influence the start of a career. I feel that we are living in a time when theatre as a whole but children’s theatre in particular is crucial to giving this generation the ability to experience the magic that we felt.
This generation is coming into a world that is in the process of undergoing some major shifts. They are coming face to face with some major issues such as massive cultural and technological shifts, climate change, and economic collapse. In a time when things are so inconsistent and fragile what we need is a rising generation who can use their heads to solve those problems but also their imaginations. I truly feel that the way to do this is through children’s theatre; and that instead of cutting funding the way we have been we should do quite the opposite. If we are able to inspire a generation to find unique ways to create change- a change that is necessary– we should be doing all that we can to do so.
Some of the best memories I have from when I was young come from the hours I would spend turning my couch into a covered wagon, my room into the vast parries of the Midwest, and my stuffed animals into fellow travelers. This was some of the best entertainment I had growing up and a lot of it was because I had no rules to follow, there was no one telling me how to do it, and I was so invested in the story that nothing else mattered. I was able to envision a world that was flawless by my definition. I now understand that the worlds that I was creating were impossible to actually experience but it gave me the chance to look at things through my lens. It allowed my imagination to grow. 18 years later I am sitting here still utilizing skills that I was able to learn from those hours spent in an imaginary world. I personally feel that it would be the biggest loss to our society, our culture and our future if we stopped including art in the schools and/or stopped performing children’s theatre. Now more than ever we must find ways to engage people’s imaginations and allow them to understand that it is okay to not follow a text book and to go and create your own path, even if it has not been made yet. Now is a time to support the growth of imagination because you never know when that creative and unique idea could be the next solution to an economic collapse or a major illness.