The Value of the Arts

The Duke and Isabel from a production of Measure for Measure.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ~ Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“Arts education is a big part of building a 21st century creative mind, and I think that we have let way too many kids lose their way by not drawing in their young minds with music, dance, painting and the other various ways we can express those things we do not have words for.” ~ Heather Watts

So a couple of things are happening in Arizona and to me personally this week that I’ve been doing lots of thinking about.

First, Arizona teachers started a walk out yesterday all over the state. I support them because I was a public school teacher and I know their frustrations not only about pay, but funding for supplies, books, technology, repairs to facilities, pay for support staff and the list goes on.

One of the first things to get cut when the state government decides they need to cut education funding, is the arts. I have always opposed this, but what can one do when the mentality is that other programs, like sports, are more important.

This week my theatre workshop class was doing dress rehearsals and performances for Measure for Measure, the play I’ve been directing. One night I had a rather nasty encounter with someone who said to me, “Your play is not that important compared to other things going on in the world.” Here’s what I have to say about just how wrong that person was.

People who are involved in the performing arts learn extremely important life skills that can help solve many of the world’s problems.

Discipline. To put together any kind of performance takes many, many hours of rehearsal. Everyone involved needs to put in the work required of them or the performance suffers.

Team work. I have always contended that the performing arts teach better team work skills than sports, because the end result is a win-win situation. The performing arts must use cooperation rather than competition to create their finished product. The actors, dancers, musicians win, and so does the audience. But, as I pointed out above, if some members of the team don’t hold up their end of the bargain, the performance suffers and both the audience and performers lose. You only have to be in a bad production, recital, or concert once to learn the importance of each member fulfilling their role.

Communication skills. Any kind of work requires good communication skills, but the arts require more than just communicating ideas. The point of the performing arts is to convey emotions to an audience. We want the audience to feel something. So, the performers must learn to listen closely to each other, and react or respond accordingly. Scientists have proven that what we witness, we feel as if it were happening to us and that makes any kind of performing art extremely important. The audience gets involved emotionally and that changes them.

Self-discovery. I’ve seen my students blossom as they do their acting scenes, or put a play together. The work is not easy because they are required to get in touch with their emotions so they can convey them to an audience. That puts them in a vulnerable position. Some students resist this, but those who don’t, become more open, accepting, and less judgmental. They get a chance to see the world through the eyes of their characters. Getting a new perspective on life is always a good thing.

Self-confidence. This one is linked to self-discovery. When we try something new and scary, we have the opportunity to exercise new skills and talents that we never knew we had. My approach to teaching acting is that anyone can be a good actor. In fact, we are acting all the time. Acting is a matter of listening to your scene partner and then thinking about how you might react or respond in real life. The more you practice these skills, the more confidence you gain about using them in real world situations.

Using imagination. All arts teach this. In terms of theatre, an actor must imagine why their character is doing and saying the things they do in the play or scene. Actors have to use their imagination to fill in the blanks that the playwright left because there wasn’t enough time to give the entire background of a character. Using our imaginations leads us back to number 4, self-discovery. If we imagine why someone is doing what they’re doing, in the book we’re reading, the entertainment we’re watching, or in real life, we have a chance to become more compassionate and less judgmental.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to be more accepting, compassionate, and less judgmental. So, after my confrontation with that person who questioned the validity of doing a play, I went back to all the things I’ve learned doing theatre. There was something going on with her that made her act the way she did, and I should give her the benefit of my understanding. We all go a little crazy at times. Though the attack hurt for a while, I’m fine and glad that our play is, in the end, a success.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. Have a fantastic weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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