So you’re on the fence about auditioning for a part in the musical or committing to working backstage or in the tech booth.
Sure, being a part of the school theatrical productions are fun and rewarding. You get to make new friends, try new things, maybe even learn to dance. But there’s more!
Did you know that the skills you will learn from being in a play will make you a more attractive candidate for colleges and employers in the future?
A few years ago, the National Education Association interviewed leaders from various industries to determine what skills are most important for students in the 21st century. They came away with what are called the Four C’s: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.
You can see these skills in development on a daily basis in MPA theatre rehearsals and performances.
It has never been more imperative that students develop critical thinking skills. Our most engaging of plays and musicals, not to mention the most effective performances, look to discover the truth about the human condition.
When a student takes on the role of a character in a play or musical, it requires looking critically at the motivations and decisions of someone else, allowing the actor to analyze and evaluate other points of view. In order to do this, the actor must consider the evidence presented in the script, and interpret this information to successfully convey the universal truths.
MPA students are always delving critically into their scripts, from Lower School students portraying mythological gods and goddesses in their classroom plays; to Middle School actors playing ogres and fairytale creatures in last fall’s Shrek musical; to the Upper School students portraying the Merry Mistresses of Murderer’s Row in our March production of Chicago the Musical.
If you would like an example of effective collaboration and teamwork, look no further than the theatre. A production at MPA typically employs the skills of at least 40 talented students and teachers, including actors, directors, crew and technicians, musicians, and set, costume, and hair and makeup designers. Throughout 6 to 8 weeks of the rehearsal process, effective collaboration and communication is essential to the success of a production.
Sometimes successful communication takes the form of providing information or instruction, as in during the rehearsal process. Other times, we use communication to motivate or influence, such as offering encouragement during those moments of pre-show jitters. Often, our communication is non-verbal, conveyed with body language — a skill that both actors and backstage crew use to communicate during a performance.
Employers today look for these collaborative and communication skills in their employees, a trend that is destined to grow given our global culture and ever growing digital world. Students who take part in a production at MPA are gaining valuable skills that are innately part of the production process.
Finally, my personal favorite of the Four C’s: Creativity.
Did you know that earning an MFA from an arts university can hold as much (and sometimes more) value for employers than even an MBA from Harvard Business school? Experts are calling this new era the “Age of Creativity” and if you’ve seen MPA students on stage, you’ll see what they mean.
Our students are able to do so much in the way of set design and construction, costume and props, all the while staying on budget. These industry leaders of the future are well-prepared to innovate no matter the path they explore.
March 2020 is “Theatre in Our Schools” month. You can learn more about helping provide access to theatre in schools across the country by visiting the Educational Theatre Association website.
By Peggy Bergin
Ms. Bergin teaches drama, oversees our arts curriculum, and is Director of the Arts.