Make the Theater Arts Part of Your Summer!
by Holly Myer
When school’s out and kids are at home, it’s a great time to get creative! Playing tag, building pillow forts, dressing in costumes, or splashing in the pool can spark a fun game or story, and kids are great storytellers.
The narrative that children give to their playtime (“And then, the dinosaur jumps out and says ROOOAR!”) is magical, and it’s awesome to see them use their imaginations.
So how can we encourage this creativity? One way to give them even more ideas and empower their brilliant minds: theater arts!
Of course, the theater endures year-round, but summertime gives families a good opportunity to balance the academic mindset of the school year with artistic enrichment. Live plays, musicals, dance performances, and concerts give our brains a dose of inspiration to use in all areas of our lives. And consider this: going to a show or taking an acting class doesn’t always mean you’re pursuing a career in the arts (though it’s an excellent route to take). By simply being present, absorbing a story, appreciating the hard work of performers, and meditating on the feelings you get from a play, song, or dance, you and your family get a taste of something new, and perhaps a fresh perspective on real elements of your own life.
A popular summer theater tradition is “Shakespeare in the park,” in which theater groups put on performances of famous Shakespeare plays—some serious, some funny—outside on a hill, in a courtyard, or in an amphitheater. Sometimes the actors are dressed in traditional Tudor-style costumes, and sometimes the troupe decides to give a play a modern interpretation, using clothing and props from another historical period to give the classic dialogue an unexpected new context. In Los Angeles, for example, the Independent Shakespeare Company puts on shows for visitors to Griffith Park, inviting guests to bring lawn chairs and picnics, creating a lovely evening activity for families. New York City has a well-known summer Shakespeare festival, too, with free shows offered through the Public Theater, performed in the world-famous Central Park, which is an inspiring setting itself!
After seeing a professional show, you might be inspired to get involved! Many communities have theatre and musical performance programs available in the summer. City parks, local theaters, and playhouses usually offer extra-family-friendly shows during school breaks, and many offer classes or workshops.
Julie’s Greenroom co-creator and executive producer Emma Walton-Hamilton recommends getting into theater, no matter your age or experience, because it’s “one of the rare activities in life that can be appreciated and enjoyed across generations, cultural backgrounds, and more. Because [theater arts] reflect the insight and imagination of our world’s many different societies and cultures, they foster compassion and tolerance.”
By participating as an audience member or a performer, you’ll be learning new things about the history and impact of the arts (just like the students on the show). In fact, many modern small-town performing groups were featured on the Netflix series to help inspire “the Greenies” in their study, and you can check them out!
Interested? Get started at home with these download-able “warm-up” activities from episodes of Julie’s Greenroom.