A friend of mine recently asked me why I have such an “obsession” with the stage, especially musical theater. Granted, this friend is much more of a sports nut than an arts lover; his idea of art is a good action movie with an overload of special effects.
My response was straightforward. Musical theater is the one arena that encompasses ALL aspects of the arts: music, dance, acting, singing and visual art in the form of set design, lighting and, yes, sometimes breathtaking special effects. Nothing sates me more than a great Broadway musical.
As much as I love the big Broadway productions … whether I see them in New York or I enjoy the national touring shows that come our way locally via TPAC … and as much as I adore the experience of our hometown professional theater companies (Tennessee Repertory Theatre and Nashville Children’s Theatre), enough cannot be said about the importance of our local community theater offerings.
Many of the great stage stars we love and adore started their burgeoning careers on their local community theater stages. The community stage is a great way to introduce your kids to the glory of theater, be it as an audience member or an opportunity to put their own potential skills to the test. And it’s a grand thing to experience everyday people of any age and skill level dig into the theatrical arts and realize the necessity of bringing it to their communities.
I recently had the privilege to have dinner with the great and talented actor, Lane Davies, to talk theater shop. Mr. Davies has enjoyed a lot of success in TV and film, but he cut his teeth in community theater. His parents were both heavily involved in their local theater in Dalton, Ga., and when he was 14 years old, he started pitching in by helping build sets. It wasn’t long thereafter when he appeared on stage playing a Confederate ghost, and he says the experience “gave me a new sense of identity; stage roles are just fun to do … it’s a great creative release!” The sense of identity he speaks of is relevant to a lot of kids who may feel like “misfits” in certain arenas of life. Being involved in a community theater production in whatever capacity … in the spotlight center stage, painting sets, sewing costumes, running the lights or sound, or helping manage the box office … heralds a true sense of family and community unparalleled by anything else. “A lot of kids feel like they don’t fit in,” says Davies. “The theater provides a tremendous outlet to give them a place to go.”
Mr. Davies is seen frequently on stage here in Middle Tennessee (and he’s also the artistic director of the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival), lending his talent to both professional and community theater productions. Why does he think it’s necessary for parents to provide their children with theatrical experiences? “Children need to realize that live theater is worth the time and money; it’s important to appreciate it. Unlike other forms of art, there are no museums out there showcasing this art form. Great plays [and musicals] are only preserved if they continue to thrive on stage … otherwise they die.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. I encourage you to enable creative inspiration within your children by taking them to an assortment of community theater productions that are bountiful in Middle Tennessee.