My youngest has always had a flair for the dramatic, so when she asked to try a well-known acting camp last summer, I signed her up. The good news was, she loved it! This got me thinking about ways to support her new experience and interest in theater arts.
If your child is in middle or high school, chances are his or her school offers theater arts classes during the school day and may also offer a club that meets outside of school hours. Encourage your child to speak with the counselor to discover what is available.
Most elementary schools do not offer theater arts classes during the school day, but many do provide after school enrichment, which may include a theater class. A quick search of my daughter’s online school catalog found a weekly, hour-long class “teaching songs, scenes and dances from Broadway blockbusters focusing on basic vocal technique, acting skills, dance and stagecraft.” Fabulous! The only problem was I hadn’t heard about it in time to enroll her. You may have to proactively reach out to your child’s school to learn about after school offerings.
See a Show
Austin is a talent-filled city and there are numerous low-cost and free shows around town of which to take advantage. Children can learn a lot just by watching others perform and there is nothing quite as inspiring as a live show. It’s how I found myself fantasizing about joining Cirque du Soleil even though I’d be hard pressed to do 50 crunches in a row. Spending time together watching a live performance offers a chance to bond with your child and demonstrates that you are invested in supporting his or her passion.
There are a number of community theater groups in the greater Austin area. If your child already has theater experience, he or she could audition for a role. However, many theaters rely on volunteer help and have several tasks available. If your child is old enough and mature enough to volunteer, it can be a great way to be exposed to the theater and to learn by helping and observing.
Libraries are magical places. It seems that any time I’d like to broaden my children’s horizons, the library has a resource for that. They also tend to be staffed by the most helpful people one could encounter. By using Austin Public Library’s easy, online chat feature, in a few short minutes I had a list in hand (well, on screen) of more theater-related books than my kids and I could read in a lifetime. Involve your child in the search and let him or her pick out the book that appeals most.
Zoom school is mostly a thing of the past, (thankfully) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use online learning to our advantage. There are a number of companies offering online enrichment classes and these are a great way to help your child take a deeper dive into his or her favorite subjects. Classes can be pre-recorded or can be offered live. Live classes are typically hosted in small groups and are designed to be interactive and engaging to keep kids’ attention. You can enroll in single classes or sign up for a class series. Single classes can be more flexible as you can fit them around your family’s schedule, however, a class series offers the benefit of your child becoming comfortable and developing friendships with his or her fellow thespians.
The YMCA of Austin has a number of locations around Austin and the surrounding areas. It is a nonprofit organization “committed to strengthening community by connecting all people to their potential, purpose and each other.” One way the YMCA works to achieve its mission is by offering a wide range of classes and other programming, including classes in the arts. Class fees tend to be much lower than those of for-profit businesses and YMCA members as well as non-members are welcome to enroll.
Readers, we are lucky to live in such a talented community and to be able to access so many theater-related resources. My search to discover how to support my daughter’s love of theater other than writing large checks turned up so many exciting new things to try! We’re looking forward to seeing shows together, checking out books to read and signing her up for a few new classes. To her, and to all of the other budding young Austin actors out there, I say “Break a leg!” Well, not actually.
Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX 7 Austin.