High school theatre helps students develop practical, life skills

My daughter recently finished her run in the Superior Heights Onstage’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I watch these community theatre productions through a bunch of different lenses including: educator, parent, and theatre lover. As a columnist I get to share my thoughts about all three lenses.

I teach at the post-secondary level, so as an educator and parent I look at these productions in terms of their educational and developmental merits. This highly positive experience has reinforced my support of schools who maintain their commitment levels to the arts while still focusing on sports.

Both sports and theatre tick so many of the same values and opportunities for personal development off a master list. Commitment to a team, being on time, working hard at practices and games or performances – check. Teamwork – check. Understanding the big picture as well as your smaller part in that game or play – check. Improving personal performance – check. Coordination and balance – check and check – especially if it is a choreographed musical. Self-confidence – check.

Not everyone is interested in sports where they run, kick, catch, or throw, and all teens deserve these opportunities for personal development.

Theatre also encourages memorization skills, public speaking skills, and the willingness to step firmly outside one’s comfort zone. From a parent’s standpoint, I see my son exceling at basketball, and my daughter in theatre, and both have been key to their maturity and accountability in life. I can’t thank schools like Superior Heights enough for maintaining their commitment to the arts.

As a theatre lover, I appreciate the grandeur and escapism of a night out. I continue to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the local high school musical productions. Adding these musicals to an already strong community theatre scene, there is always something interesting to do in the city.

For Willy Wonka, I want to praise the director, the set designer, and the cast. The chocolate factory scenes were visually stunning, really transporting the audience into a world of Pure Imagination.The cast all rose to the occasion with strong performances, due to their talents and encouragement from Superior Heights Onstage’s Director, Anthony Aceti.

Armed with the patience of a saint, the caring of a parent, and the nurturing of an educator, the cast and crew are transformed each year by Aceti. What is noteworthy is that he has always encouraged and supported everyone interested in theatre. Last year my guest at Mamma Mia commented on how wonderfully inclusive it was that there was someone in a wheelchair in the production, as well as the fact that people weren’t typecast by body type. Many local high school plays also cast children in elementary school, including the Oompa-Loompas this year.

My daughter was interested in Korah for their well-known arts program, but in going to Superior, she has had many larger parts and opportunities, but more importantly, she’s had the good fortune of working with Aceti.

Whether looking at local high school theatre as an educator, parent, theatre lover, or columnist, a commitment to the arts builds not only character in the students involved, but also builds spirit within the school, and in the community.

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