Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Adrian Churchill talks about being a man among bunnies

KA1_8440THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT has been a hit among families, and Adrian Churchill plays the part of Mr. McGregor with “comic verve” according to The Dallas Morning News. Adrian has been working very hard to keep Peter away from singing vegetables, and we were able to visit him briefly about his co-stars.

SW: When we watch PETER RABBIT, it seems that you are all interacting so naturally. Adrian, what is it like being the only human on stage?

AC: I love being the only human on stage with these puppets. It feels like I’m living in my own childhood’s imagination. Peter Rabbit is a very real foe and gives me quite a workout. The main thing to remember as a performer is to treat the puppet as a fellow actor on stage. Always address the puppet, not the puppeteer.

SW: Is this your first time co-starring with a puppet?

AC: I have been onstage with puppets before (in a production of PINOCCHIO) however that show had other humans in it.

SW: We have all experienced the magic of Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts from the audience. Can you talk about the magic of the puppetry from your perspective?

AC: What I find magical is watching the show from backstage. The sheer traffic madness is amazing to see and the commitment of each puppeteer to their own character is fantastic. What a great group of theater artists they all are.

Peter Rabbit for DMNSW: We know the role is physically for the puppeteers backstage. What physical requirements for this role have been very unique for you compared to other roles?

AC: This has been a very demanding show for me physically. I’m a big round guy and I run and run and run after that rabbit only to be interrupted by two (out of breath) songs that I sing.

SW: What is one of your favorite things about the show?

AC: I must say that B. Wolf’s little operetta score to this show is just so wonderful! It has a depth to it both musically and lyrically that you just don’t see much of these days. It is both detailed and full.

Adrian, Peter and Peter’s rabbit family will be romping through the garden through April 5. On Easter Weekend, the Easter Bunny will be on hand to greet families and grant each child their own candy-filled egg. We hope you’ll make plans to come see the entire cast soon!

The Perils of Puppetry and why kids don’t listen to their mothers

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I got to walk in on a rehearsal for PETER RABBIT yesterday and it was absolutely breathtaking.  The stage was completely full and Mr. McGregor’s garden was massive and  so beautiful.  Peter was talking about temptation and how hard it is to be good.

I can appreciate the lure and the power of temptation that Peter experiences, but his mom is just trying to keep him safe; something all moms seek to do.  In KA1_8283this case, Peter’s mom isn’t worried about skinned knees or even broken bones, she is worried that he will get picked up by the farmer and baked into a pie.  She’s not being paranoid or overprotective either, she’s worried because that’s exactly what happened to Peter’s father!  Fact: if you are caught by the farmer, you will be eaten.

So remind me, Peter, why it’s so hard.  Is that cabbage or carrot or whatever really going to be worth the risk to your cute little furry self?  Apparently, it is.

So far, I have not been able to lure my kids away from an activity by telling them they’ll be baked into a pie, but still, somehow my telling them not to do something makes it all the more appealing.  I think the same is true with Peter.  If mom says not to do it, it MUST be good, because obviously mom doesn’t want me to have any fun, ever!

I can’t wait to bring my kids to see THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT. Not only am I hoping they’ll learn something about listening to their parents, but I just know they are going to love the show.  But the mom part of me that worries will just be thinking of my friend Trish backstage, and all the Cirque de Soleil-type acrobatics they’re having to do backstage to make Peter and his family come to life onstage.

KA1_8364This version of PETER RABBIT employs multiple puppet forms with a relatively small team of puppeteers juggling materials and characters backstage. My friend, Master Puppeteer Trish Long explains, “Of all the Kathy Burks shows I have participated in, this is by far the biggest. The challenge for me is that depending on what puppet stage we are on, I do a different character each time. So going from one personality to another in a fast- paced atmosphere can be challenging. Running up and down the bridge of the marionette stage is quite a workout as well. When I change from doing the black theater with hood and gloves, and then run up to the bridge I have to always make a mental note of where I left those items, so that they are in the same place when I switch back and have to use them again.”

You’re doing what?  Running? In the dark? Going up ladders with gloves? Running up ladders in the dark with a hood over your head?  No, Trish, NO! I’ve told her several times that I’m going to call her mom and tattle on her, but I guess she’s a grown up and a “Master Puppeteer” so I have to assume she knows what she’s doing.


Careers my children are not allowed to pursue:

Shark Dentist
Rodeo Clown
Stunt Pilot
Master Puppeteer

It’s always so hard to balance the need to keep those you love safe and wanting them to experience life at its fullest, take risks, and try something new.  Often dangers aren’t spelled out so clearly as they are in Mr. McGregor’s garden, so we just have to follow our gut sometimes and revel in the beauty when we get to see art with an element of danger carried out effortlessly.  Every parent will be able to relate to Peter’s poor mom with her premature white whiskers.  We’re all just trying our best to be good.

And just so you have the opportunity to appreciate the craziness that you don’t see behind the scenes, check out this video.  Hats off to you Puppeteers!  Be careful out there!

THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT runs from March 13 to April 5.  To purchase tickets call 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.

Vegetables: The Perfect Cure for Winter Cabin Fever…But Only If They Talk!

store2(Written on March 2, 2014 before the weather bottom really fell out in Dallas.)

I have heard that if you dont like the weather in Texas, just wait two hours and it will be different.   But after spending four and a half hours in the car recently to go ten miles due to the crazy weather conditions, Im starting to think this might just be a saying, and not actually scientific fact.

To be sure, this mom has never been more ready for spring. The FB parent groups were hysterical over the weekend with what do we do with our kids?  Everyone was trapped at home for several days and running out of things to do.  There were lots of great suggestions: homemade play dough, finger painting, baking cookies, but after a few hours, we were feeling desperate again.  My boys invented a game called pillow boxingand I was all for it, but in the end, it was hard work competing with the satisfaction both parent and child feel getting outside!

Its not like fun winter weather, either.  Theres no sledding, no snowballs, and even if the snow had stuck, we dont have those kind of winter clothes here.  Wed have to resort to the ziplock bag over mittens (or vice versa) for them to even be able to touch the snow without getting sick.

Next week is spring break, but I still cant stomach the idea of sending them outside.  The grassis a brown wet bog of mud and straw that will most likely turn to quicksand if they step on it.  11042668_10152731651026732_154716678822933005_n

This year Ive decided to pay no attention to the groundhog. Instead Im going to listen to the rabbit.  Thats Peter Rabbit.  Nothing looks  more like spring now than Mr. McGregors garden.  The vegetables are colorful, vibrant, and they are so happy spring is here, and they will tell you themselves in this most fun version of Beatrix Potters cautionary tale. 

Sometimes when the outdoors isnt cooperating the way we want it to, you have to create the ideal outdoor world inside, and thats what DCT has done with THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT.  So if you dont like the weather in Texas, just wait until March 13 and join us at DCT for some springtime fun with your favorite naughty bunny.   

Not only will we have talking vegetables on March 13s Opening Night, but Urban Acres Farmstead will have some actual organic vegetables for kids to dmn-UrbanAcres-2013-Ben-Torres-freelancehold and information on the process that brought them to life.  I cant wait for my picky eater to actual hold a vegetable in the flesh.  Think of it as a petting zoo for veggies.  Kids may say vegetables arent fun, but theyll definitely change their mind after one night on the farm with Peter Rabbit.  Please join us for the opening or any time during the run.  Shows run through Easter Weekend-April 4 and 5! For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.   

P.S. For pillow boxing to work, they have to use full-size bed pillows with pillow cases.  Couch pillows dont have nearly the same destructive effect, trust me.

Your Teen Brain on Stage…

KA3_1302Teens are people too. Their brains, on the other hand, well to say they’re like the rest of ours, that might be a stretch…

Scientists (and parents) worldwide have been trying to work it out: how can you get your precious children to adulthood without having to traverse the rugged terrain of teen-dom.  But there’s just no way around it.  It has been proven, time and time again that there is one rickety path from twelve to twenty.  So, the more we know, the more we can brace ourselves for the inevitable.KA3_0851

Thank goodness for TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL. Finally, years of scientific research on adolescent brain development has culminated in the universal language of the stage musical. If you or someone you love is a teenager, this show was made just for you.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes a galaxy to raise a teen.  DCT is fortunate to be surrounded by community experts who advise us on these tough teen subjects.  In addition to having been a teen themselves, they deal with this population virtually every day.  We are also fortunate to have sponsors who not only have knowledge of the subject, but also care enough to support DCT’s efforts to use theater to trigger these important conversations..

“Being a teenager isn’t easy,” says John McFarland from Children’s Health. “The decisions made as a teen can affect the rest of a person’s life. Besides dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of adolescence, teens often face unprecedented social pressures from friends, family, media and society as a whole.”

KA3_0845Did he say the decisions we make as teenagers can affect the rest of a person’s life?  No kidding! I just have two words to say to that: Garfield Tattoo.

Mr. McFarland continues, “A program like DCT’s TEEN BRAIN is a great way to explore the issues that teens and their families face every day. TEEN BRAIN is also a unique way to jumpstart the conversation within the household.”

Talk about issues?  Have conversations? What a good idea.  Where was this show when I was a teenager?  I had to rely on the Bangles to help me navigate my teens.

In addition to Children’s Health, the Hersh Foundation is  one of DCT’s longtime  sponsors of our teen “issue” plays. Julie Hersh, Foundation President and Author of Struck by Living/Decidi Vivir commented, “TEEN BRAIN offers a comfortable setting for teens to watch and discuss the high-charged teen brain, often stoked by hormones, stress and the impact of social media. Seeing Hersh Foundation logorelevant teen issues on stage creates a unique opportunity to proactively protect minds. Most of the time, teens learn about these issues when a problem explodes, under the harsh spotlight of scrutiny for something that went wrong. TEEN BRAIN allows teachers, parents and students to discuss potential problems and strategies before a problem even surfaces. Funny, clever and moving, this show can help us all maintain our mental health.”

So, obviously taking care of teens and their brains is a big deal and a big job, and we can all use some help.  Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a neighbor, or friend of a teen, this will be an invaluable experience for you.  If you are a teenager, hang in there, friend.  You’ll make it. We hope to see you at the show.

Final weekend of performances coming up! Show must close March 1. Get your tickets HERE.

 

Written by Sherry Ward, DCT pr manager, and an all-too concerned mother about the approaching teen years of her own sons.

 

Crystal Charity Ball Selects DCT as a 2015 Beneficiary!

What would life be like if the buzzing light overhead sounded to you like a roaring lion? What if the lights going dark in the theater made you feel like you were trapped in a cave? What if, when you saw a flashing light, your body went into convulsions that you couldn’t control? What if you were so overwhelmed by these situations that you were afraid of big spaces and crowds? This is life for many of the 100,000+ children in Dallas on the autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities, and their 100,000+ siblings, and their 100,000+ parents. If you are the parent of a child with developmental disabilities, most likely you prioritize your child’s safety and forego many community events. Unfortunately, you and your family miss out on so much.

BUT… are you ready for some amazing news? The Crystal Charity Ball has granted $564,400 to expand the Sensory-Friendly Performance Initiative atIMG_3309 (2) Dallas Children’s Theater! The generous grant will allow DCT to more than double the number of sensory-friendly performances in 2016, 2017, and 2018. It also will fund classes especially designed for children with developmental disabilities, and provide for the purchase of equipment that will allow better customization of sensory-friendly shows. In 2018-19, DCT will mount a performance with a cast that includes children with developmental disabilities and children who are typically developing. What a rich and stimulating experience it will be for all! Everyone at DCT is deeply grateful to the wonderful women of The Crystal Charity Ball for acknowledging this community need and for the work they will do this year to fund it.

Cara Gravely French, the Crystal Charity member assigned to research DCT’s application, said the Sensory-Friendly Initiative is appealing in many ways.  “DCT is a dream come true for families with developmental disabilities,” she said. “There are not many places these families can go together and feel likeIMG_3317 (2) they fit in, or feel understood. DCT offers a safe, accepting place for children with developmental disabilities and their families to experience a family outing together. Everyone in the family can reap its many benefits! Parents don’t have to worry, and the children grow socially and cognitively,” French said. She stressed that DCT is the only live theater in our community producing sensory- friendly versions of their productions, offering  critical brain stimulation through the movement, emotion, and cooperative learning. “This program is beneficial to both children with developmental disabilities and typically developing children,” French said.

In 2014, DCT began its journey to become an accepting, comfortable, and safe place for children with developmental disabilities. Three terrific plays were adapted so that children with autism and others who need a more relaxed, comforting environment and performance could enjoy live theater. What a joy it has been to be involved as a mother of a son with multiple disabilities, and as a writer. I have learned so much through interacting with the amazing local Clowns Thrill Stuart Little Audience Memberspartners from Autism Speaks; The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities University of Texas Southwestern and Children’s Health Centers; the Neuropsychology Service of Children’s Health Dallas; and The University of North Texas, including the Kristin Farmer Autism Center, who contributed so much – educating, advising, volunteering, and getting the word out to the families who need this programming. Orlando Repertory Theatre and Nashville Children’s Theatre also contributed to this effort immensely as our national partners. All of these partners deserve a hearty round of applause.

In the pilot year last year, DCT exceeded all of its goals, and families of children with sensory needs resoundingly asked for more opportunities to expose their children to live theater. While the current season also will offer three sensory-friendly performances, Skippyjon Jones, Balloonacy, and The Adventures of Flat Stanley,  the 2016-17 season will offer seven sensory-friendly performances.

Sharron Hunt, Immediate Past President of the DCT Board of Trustees, said of CCB the award, “Crystal Charity members are incredible advocates for children, and Dallas Children’s Theater is a ready and willing ally. This extremely generous grant gives critical support and endorsement to our mission of giving children with developmental disabilities and their families the opportunity for theater arts education. With Crystal Charity’s three-year support, we look forward to sustaining this program for the long term. We are proud to use the power of theater everyday to reach children in ways no other learning mode can. I’ve seen firsthand how it sparks their imagination and their thinking, and no child should be deprived of that experience. On behalf of the entire Board of DCT, I again express how honored and humbled we are to be chosen for this amazing gift.”

CCB Village

Left to right: Sandra Session-Robertson, Nancy Schaeffer, Robyn Flatt, Kory Ballard, Patty Bates-Ballard, Sharron Hunt, Carol March, Karen Travis. Photo: Aaron Rodriguez

The Crystal Charity Ball process is quite rigorous. Being part of the DCT presentation team with my son Kory was a wonderful experience because he and I got to spend time with a group of extremely talented people, all highly motivated to make theater accessible to children like Kory and their families. I am deeply grateful to this group and to all at Dallas Children’s Theater for their tireless efforts to make their sensory-friendly vision come to life.

 

Patty Bates-Ballard is mom to Kory, who has sensory needs, and a grant writer for DCT.

DCT BELIEVES in young artists!

Now that 2015 is in full swing, we are taking some time to celebrate more grand prize winners of our BELIEVE Creativity Contest which we held BelieveKids-4widelast summer.  While we are highlighting eleven winners, I am still struck by the thoughtfulness with which all of our entries created their work.  This was not a school assignment; it wasn’t homework; it was just a living artistic spirit within them that they needed to express.

Some of these kids had to make extra efforts to get their work to us because, as their entry forms told us, they were not surrounded by adults that had time, energy or other resources to help them.  Their work was ultra expressive; fully representing feelings they, and they alone, were experiencing.    It was these pieces that had a lasting impact on us.

Some among these would have been winners, but they were submitted with no names or contact information. Art is personal, and sometimes it’s easier to be anonymous.  If you are one of these young artists, we celebrate you.  You are amazing.

It’s the time in our season when we get to look into the teen brain with ourZoe Born production of TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL.  When we received Zoe Born’s piece, “The Magic of Stories,” it was the first three-dimensional entry we had received, and it actually had a removable layer which revealed what was inside the brain of the unicorn she created.  There were very specific story elements and she demonstrated how her creative mind works.

Adam RothFor many of these artists, this was the first contest they were entering. They don’t all want to be artists, but kids are just better at finding ways to light their creative spark.  Adam Roth, for example, very methodically engineered his winning project “Machines” based on shows he had seen at DCT. His unique medium was special light-sensitive paper, and it was unlike anything the judges had seen before. He thinks like an inventor and believes his machines have the power to change the world, and we believe him too.

Teen brains are even more mysterious than Zoe’s unicorn, but Malley Morales gave us a little insight into her motivation with her video project.Malley’s video explains how people can impact other’s choices without even knowing it. She explains, “People say things all the time without realizing who is listening. There have been many instances where I’ve made a choice based on someone else’s opinion, but now I know that to succeed, I need to stick to my own morals.”

So here are these kids talking about morals, inventing machines, and demonstrating the layers of the creative process.  Wow.

This artwork will be on display in our lobby throughout the season, and Malley’s video can be seen on Dallas Children’s Theater’s YouTube channel.

As we look forward to the 2015-2016 season, we already have our wheels turning about what the next contest can be.  We might need to raise the bar now that we’ve seen what young people are capable of.  We have lots of work to do to prepare for next season, so we are fortunate to have talented creative kids who are willing to share their gifts with us.

Until the next contest is announced, we’re looking for more opportunities for families to work on small creative projects together in the DCT lobby before performances.  Look for these during SKIPPYJON JONES and our upcoming production of THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT, and don’t forget to check out our fun to do page here.

Also remember that even when kids and adolescents “outgrow” the need to talk to grownups, they are mastering ingenious ways to communicate that take a little more time to interpret.  It’s sure is worth it, though, to crack that code.  If you need some help, bring that adolescent with their creative gibberish to TEEN BRAIN: THE MUSICAL.

Many thanks to Chooze Shoes and Accessories for providing custom gifts for each of our our grand prize winners. 

 

For Zak Reynolds, believing is more than a season theme…it’s how he faces his challenges.

skippyjon-photoEditor’s Note:  The wonderfully sweet story of Skippyjon Jones has extra special meaning for actor Zak Reynolds who plays the lead role in the play.  At the same time that he dons the persona of this imaginative Siamese kitten that ventures to far off places, his mind must also deal with his day to day. We are so grateful that Zak was willing to share his story of being recently diagnosed with Alopecia Areata and how the arts motivate him. Here, in his own words, is Zak.

I was officially diagnosed around the beginning of August, right after DOGFIGHT at WaterTower Theatre. Throughout the rehearsal process and run of that show, my hair was starting to just fall out as I would bathe. Luckily, I was playing a Marine from the Vietnam era so it wasn’t so hard to hide that I was losing hair, due to my high n’ tight hairstyle. But there were still modifications I had to apply on my scalp with makeup. That was when all of it hit me pretty hard. 

Jason Robert Villarreal and Zak Reynolds (Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale - 2014)

Jason Robert Villarreal and Zak Reynolds
(Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale – 2014)

My hair had been slowly coming out months before, but I had thought nothing of it; just thinking that a few strands of hair were coming out. Alas.. 

Immediately, after the diagnosis, I thought about how my theatrical career would be affected. Friends who are directors and work in the industry on a much higher scale than I do, gave me so much hope, telling me that it wouldn’t and shouldn’t affect my career as an actor. Even though they were telling me all of this feel good information, it didn’t stop me from thinking the worst about it. “How am I going to get a job with this?” “Will I have to get new headshots?” “Will I have to focus on the technical side of theater more than being on stage?” etc… 

For example, with SkippyJon Jones, all of the original promo shots that were done months ago had me with a full head of hair. Not to say that they modified anything whatsoever, but I wouldn’t doubt that it was taken into consideration on some scale to make sure the costumes/setting didn’t reveal too much of my “disease”, which I hate calling it a disease.  

I still ask myself these questions today and it is still a painful to think about the answers to those questions. Alongside the career, it effects my daily life as a restaurant server and an independent human. “Am I attractive?” Unfortunately, I still can’t look at pictures of myself with any sort of hairstyle I liked because it legitimately puts me into a terrible state of mind. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that yet…

Thanks to Dr. Davis at Davis Dermatology, he has given me a lot of hope that my hair will come back in time, but I will need to be very patient with it. I don’t know how long it will be until my hair grows back but when it does, I’m going to give it a nice shampoo.  

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Nick Martin (Composer), Linda Daugherty (Playwright) and Zak Reynolds (Skippyjon Jones)

My friends and family have been the entire base of what kept me on my feet, continuing to audition through this crazy time. The gala that Ashley Gonzales, Amy Stevenson and Gideon’s Feet* had for me to raise money for my medical bills was the most heartwarming, unbelievably touching event. The community raised over $1400 for my bills to be taken care of. I am in love with the people I surround myself with and the people I am soon to meet, truly.

All I can do is take the advice, the meds, and the love that is given to me and use it to my advantage. If you are in the arts and have something that you think may hinder you from continuing your form, keep your head high and surround yourself with anyone and anything that makes you happy. Work as hard as you can for what you want and stay humble while doing it.

 Aspire to be the best at whatever you choose to be. 

 

*Gideon’s Feet is a 501 (c)3 non-profit corporation that provides support, financial help and service opportunities for artists in need.

Kindhearted Skippyjon reminds us to share

Each year at this time, Dallas Children’s Theater invites audiences to join us in simple acts of kindness.  We realize there are organizations right here that are unnamed (3)in constant need of support because they are taking care of our neighbors, other citizens that don’t have access to what they need. This year as we ask patrons to contribute to our two collections, we’re going to be offering a significant incentive – children’s tickets to THE MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY which will be at DCT this summer.

As you prepare for your visit to DCT for the world premiere musical SKIPPYJON JONES, please bring in an item or two to share.  Canned goods unnamed (2)and other non-perishable food items will be collected for the Vickery Meadow Neighborhood Alliance Food Pantry. Vickery Meadow is an affordable community with heart and soul right here in our neighborhood, creating a safe, healthy environment for families. The food pantry was established to provide supplemental food to the low income, largely refugee and immigrant families living in Vickery Meadow, and they were thrilled that we offered to help.

Of course some of our neighbors have four legs. As Skippyjon shows how boring the world would be without some imaginative cats and dogs, we will also blog header largercollect toys for cats and dogs at the Operation Kindness animal shelter.  Operation Kindness is the original and largest no-kill shelter in North Texas. They care for approximately 300 animals on a day-to-day basis, and some toys would provide much-needed play for these animals looking for a home.

unnamed (1)We want our kids to be generous and aware of the needs of others, and this is a great way to have them participate in charitable giving, and feed off of your enthusiasm for helping your community. My kids love picking out toys for our dog, so our dog has plenty of toys.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to share this simple act with them.

If you bring something for one group, you’ll receive one free youth ticket good 325x200_skippyjonfor the summer production of THE MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY.  If you bring something for both groups, you will receive two youth tickets to the summer show.  Double your donation, double your fun!  Please note that this is not two items for one organization, but one item for each of the two organizations in order to get two youth tickets.

DCT always hopes our shows, like SKIPPYJON JONES, will convey important life lessons for our audiences, but an actual act of kindness shared by a family will create the greatest impact of all. Thank you for remembering our neighbors.  That’s what makes you a superhero

The Power of Theater

DCT -TUCK audience - 3/29/2011

Students get ready for the matinee performance of DCT’s Tuck Everlasting.

It has been said that theater affects children in multiple ways. It allows children to be creative and indulge in the beauty of arts at a young age. But what if I told you that theater did more than that for your child? In fact, according to Professor Jay Greene from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, theater has the ability to increase tolerance, empathy and other cognitive skills in students.

It’s almost impossible to measure the effects of theater, but Greene and his team might have made a breakthrough. Researchers examined the impact that high-quality theater productions have on students. After reviewing the data from this experiment, researchers determined that students who watch live theater productions have enhanced knowledge of the plots, increased vocabulary, tolerance and a greater ability to read others’ emotions.

I only attended a couple of plays as a child, and this study makes me wonder how much better I would have scored on my reading comprehensive tests in grade school had I experienced live theater more often. Professor Greene led a research team that performed a randomized field study, offering various students from 7th to 12th grade free theater tickets to either Hamlet or A Christmas Carol. Approximately 670 students completed the application process and were organized into 24 groups, based on similarities in grade level, demographics and class subject (English, Drama, etc.). Researchers constructed lotteries to determine which groups would be “treatment” groups (receiving the free tickets) and which group would be a “control” group (not receiving free tickets). Some students in both the treatment and control groups also read or watched movie versions of the plays.

Following up, Greene’s researchers sent out surveys to all of the students who participated in the study. For each play, researchers asked students a few questions about the plot, vocabulary, emotions and other psychographic information. The results were eye-catching.

Results chart

The chart above confirms that students who went to see the live theater shows knew more about the story and vocabulary definitions than those who did not see the performance. Greene’s team worked with a Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (RMET). The RMET is an advanced test regarding theory of the mind. RMET is used to assess individual differences in social and emotional cognition across various groups and cultures. By administering a youth version of this test, researchers concluded that students who saw the live show increased their ability to read others’ emotions by 23 percent of a standard deviation, compared to 21 percent by students of the control group. I was surprised to see that the tolerance level of the treatment group was lower than that of the students who did not see the live theater show. Researchers determined that interest in seeing theater is strongly related to tolerance and may be a reason for the level differences.

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the theater industry. The staff at Dallas Children’s Theater believes theater is an art form that everyone should explore. With a variety of theater and video classes, DCT encourages students to get hands-on experience and learn valuable skills in theater arts. These skills benefit them well beyond the camp experience.  Because of the in-depth knowledge they receive from DCT teaching artists, these concepts have the opportunity to be imprinted in their formative minds for the long term. DCT’s Associate Artistic Director and Education Director, Nancy Schaeffer, wholeheartedly agrees with the results of this study.“This study confirms what I’ve known for years. This is why I do what I do. Theater is powerful,” Schaeffer said.

DCT Andy Long teaching class at  Bonham Elementary

Schaeffer teaches a theater class at a local elementary school.

Here at DCT, Schaeffer directs the DCT Academy and Teen Conservatory classes as well as the Curtains Up on Reading Residency program. She also directs and choreographs several Teen Scene and mainstage shows every year. After 30 years in this industry, Schaeffer’s perception of theater has not changed.

“It is so helpful to get validation on the power of live performance. I feel very strongly that there is much value in this work,” she said.

It’s a lovely sight to see children being inspired and emotionally in tune with the characters on stage. Robyn Flatt, DCT’s executive artistic director, believes the value of theater is easily detectable just by watching children’s facial expressions.

She states, “Their eyes light up. They’re dynamic. They’re excited. They want to tell you about it. They have connected emotionally to the event, and then they have an experience that they want to share with you.”

Audience shot

DCT guests enjoy a live theater performance of Madeline’s Christmas.

Flatt goes on to say, “Emotion happens before learning and you’ve got to connect on that emotional level. And that’s what we do in theater. We bring emotion to it.”

I believe that kids who have seen DCT’s productions will remember these shows for the rest of their lives. The power of theater is remarkable, and DCT’s only hope is to share this power with generations to come.

This study will appear in the Winter 2015 issue of the online journal, Education Next, and is currently available on the publication’s website at http://educationnext.org/learning-live-theater. Please visit www.dct.org to get more information about our upcoming shows, events and academy classes.

To learn more about how your child, class or afterschool group can benefit from DCT’s programming, contact Nancy Schaeffer at 214-978-0110.

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Written by: Tammie Riley, Community Engagement Coordinator
Hometown: Houston, TX
Studies: Public Relations, minor in Spanish and certificate in Technical Communication