Children, The Arts, and The Real Value of Educational Theater

I mention it every so often around here. In my other life, I work in educational theater year round. I love it. I love being able to give young people the experience of interacting with the arts outside of the traditional classroom. What I haven't mentioned here is my policy on working with programs. I will not work for schools that do not have at least one performance each year where every student who wants to get onstage can. When I have a say in the program for the year, I insist on large cast shows with room for ensembles so that every child gets a chance to be onstage. I also work closely with the special education program to make sure every child with any interest at all in performing or participating in some way can. The quality of the final show is, in my eyes, better for allowing so much enthusiasm and passion for the arts to be represented onstage.

The New York City Ballet had the opportunity to have a similar impact on the lives of children.

Pearl is a young girl with cerebral palsy in NYC. She and her mother are both fans of ballet. When her mother discovered that the NYC Ballet had children's workshops where any child could dance with the principal performers, she wanted to give Pearl that chance.

She wrote an e-mail to the NYC Ballet asking them to consider a special workshop for children with disabilities.

The NYC Ballet took the idea and ran with it. They brought in Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky of the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center to help structure the workshop in the best way for these children. He even decided that it was best for the children to not use prescribed leg braces because it was supposed to be a fun experience, not more physical therapy.

19 children attended the first series of workshops including Pearl. They loved it. You can see their joy in the video from Upworthy.

The NYC Ballet also plans on continuing this series of workshops so more children can experience the joy of dance.

When you open up the arts to everyone, you give everyone an experience they will remember forever. Not everyone is going to become a professional performer. That doesn't mean that every child doesn't benefit from experiencing the arts in their lives.

I've done shows with a few students who have cerebral palsy since I started working in educational theater. I tell them what I tell every other student I have: do the best you can and have fun doing it. The chance to present that opportunity to children is why I've turned down higher paying jobs again and again. If everyone in a school can't participate, then I won't participate.

The Great American Comic Book Musical

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