Editorial: Why the theater deserves a leading role

Posted 2/2/23

Students engaged in an array of theater classes can learn the soft skills of modern education — and modern employment.

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Editorial: Why the theater deserves a leading role


Schools ain’t the same as they used to be. Those raised in the Three Rs of reading, writing and ’rithmetic would be surprised, and in many cases dismayed, to learn what and how kids learn these days.

From an early age, today’s students are directed into group dynamics. They are steered to work in teams, to collaborate, to solve problems together. Then they are encouraged, forced and required to perform before their peers.

Through their years in elementary, middle and high school, they frequently make individual or group presentations. Everyone on the team takes a turn in the spotlight, all of them inevitably facing a live audience.

After 13 years in public education, some of these students emerge at the highest levels of performance in the Three Rs. Some do not. That ain’t much different than it’s always been.

Yet all of these students, before they get to the end of their journey, whether they embrace the experience, or not, must stand before their peers, many times, and present themselves to the crowd.

This quick tutorial is all a prologue to the main performance, which is extolling the virtues of a theater program in modern education. Students engaged in an array of theater classes can learn the soft skills of modern education — and modern employment.

They learn public speaking skills. They learn personal communication skills. They learn the challenges and opportunities of group dynamics. They build self-confidence. They face fears. They have fun.

Ask most hiring managers who they would prefer to hire — the introvert who earned an A- in AP Calculus or the confident extrovert who earned a B- in AP Calculus — and most would choose the latter. In fact, the latter would be the obvious choice from the second they walked in the door.

So instead of pushing the district’s theater curriculum to the budget chopping block, the Bristol Warren Regional School District should be considering how to expand the program to every student in its buildings. A robust “theater” program could include an “Intro to Public Speaking” course for all students. It could take the lead at multiple schools in organizing and staging Unified Theater performances (where students of all intellectual and physical abilities perform together). Its students could be mentors and role models for younger students, assigned to help teach the tenets of speaking, acting, presenting.

If this were the education system of yesteryear, “Theater” would be an inevitable and understandable budget cut. It would be a luxury program for a niché group of students.

But it ain’t a luxury anymore. In today’s educational system, theater is at the heart of student expression, achievement and success. Today, theater deserves a leading role.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.