The Value of Theatre for students

Participating in a youth theatre group while growing up shaped who I am today. Between the ages of 10 and 17, I was involved in a youth theatre group in my hometown of Bridlington and was part of around eight musical theatre shows during that time.

Theatre is an important art form in itself. Putting on a theatre performance requires a much smaller budget than other visual art forms, such as making a film. This allows people who aren’t well-known, or don’t have a large source of funds, to share their stories with the world. Theatre has a different atmosphere to any other environment I’ve been in, and it’s one that curates an intimate connection between the audience and performers. The whole stage can be taken in at once, rather than a director selecting which parts of an actor is seen on-screen, and allows observers to experience ‘stage magic’, which again has a flair that can’t be found elsewhere.

Being part of the team behind a theatre production is incredibly rewarding, especially knowing you get to create the aforementioned experience for audiences, and I believe involvement in the theatre can be incredibly powerful for young people. The main thing my time on the stage gave me was a previously absent confidence. Singing and dancing on stage while trying to make audiences believe you are some abstract or magical being really requires you to get over your self-consciousness. This ability has been valuable at many points in my life. Another key skill which is born from taking part in theatre, is teamwork. Theatre is a great environment in which to learn to collaborate with, and be accountable to others. As those participating in shows usually love what they’re doing, it is an opportunity to learn how to positively engage in teamwork, without the downside of some people not wanting to be there.

These skills are all transferable to the workplace later in life, and it’s a shame participation in theatre isn’t considered a standout attribute by employers. For example, theatre requires a good memory and effective time management, particularly when keeping to a strict schedule, where every minute is significant, to keep a show on track. Theatre or physical arts such as dance, can be a positive channel for young people to direct their energy and enthusiasm into, but often aren’t considered conventionally ‘cool’, so can put people off getting involved. Theatre is a creative way to express emotion, and many musical theatre soundtracks tackle emotions far more personally than your average song on the radio.

Overall, my years in theatre gave me an increased sense of confidence and self-certainty that I would love to instil in every self-conscious and unsure young person. It breaks my heart that the arts go continually underfunded, when being involved in them can truly be life changing. I think some parents are reluctant to get their children involved as programmes like this are usually expensive, and I’m very lucky the organisation that I was involved with had enough backing from businesses to let people partake for free. Parents also don’t see theatre as a sustainable route for their children to take, as the professional world is brutal and unstable, and talent doesn’t guarantee work. However, if the opportunity for free or cheap theatre experience is available, I think everyone should give it a shot to find out if it’s their thing. Even if it isn’t, I’d be surprised if your confidence didn’t grow – and it’s the perfect thing to try out while you’re at UEA.

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Ellie Robson

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June 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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