Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Save the Drama for your Mama.....

     This post could well be about all the dramatics I have witnessed with my 3 children, currently ages 20, 17 and 11, but it's not.  This blog deals with their draw to the Drama Club and the many plays that they have acted in, and the bigger picture as it pertains to life choices.
     It all started with a Munchkin.  Our daughter Molly came home from school one day and told us she had an interest in acting in the upcoming High School's rendition of the Wizard of OZ.  She was selected to be a Munchkin.  She was the right height (she kinda still is).
 She was in the 6th grade, and my wife and I couldn't see the harm in her participating, so we agreed (gotta round that kid out, after all)   As a proud parent, I will say, it started a very successful run for her with her future appearances on stage.  She later acted in Annie, did many more chorus concerts full of solo's and duet's and sang the National Anthem at a plethora of sporting events and parades.  My favorites were the Christmas Chorus concerts.  Her rendition of Merry Christmas Baby instantly makes me tear up as I hear her throaty, soulful singing of that particular song, but it all started with a Munchkin. She was bitten by the "acting" or "stage" bug and she still likes to get up and perform today.  She shares this trait with her Dad and siblings.  Just a few weeks ago, Molly and I got up and did a song or two on Karaoke Night at a bar in Buffalo.  It was fun, and she made me tear up there too, but it also got me to thinking whether we were doing a disservice to our kids in supporting their love of all things theatrical. 

    Without question the effort that my children have put into the theater has gained them benefit, not the least of which is the ability to be comfortable in unfamiliar settings.  In my opinion, this is a rare gift, especially when you have to present to large groups, so if you excel at it, you have a leg up on your peers.
Molly (on right) with friend singing
  I have no doubt that this skill will continue to serve my children in the future, and already we receive a lot of compliments on how our children present themselves.  There are, however, costs to the participation in the theater, especially in the High School years, and they need to be considered. I have noticed that with some kids, the amount of work that is needed to put on a production can be overwhelming and can have a deleterious effect on their school work.  There are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes, the homework doesn't get done, or more probably gets done but not with the effort it deserved, put towards it.  I have loved watching my children during each of the performances, but I have not loved watching their grades suffer for the art. Those consequences come up quickly and in a highly competitive academic world, the points lost on GPA due to Drama, can be the difference in being accepted into the college of your choice, or getting the better scholarship to your chosen school to make it affordable.  Those are not fun conversations to have with a teen, but oh how those bright lights beckon.

      My son Dan started acting in High School and he logged countless hours rehearsing and acting in productions.  I recall Les Miserables, The Crucible, Crazy For You, and coming soon to a High School near you, Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced. 

Dan, in white, in The Sound of Music
 We found out that he could sing when he acted in Les Mis, which we honestly didn't know until he started rehearsals.  I don't think we are bad parents, but I do think that having a singing sister (that was her thing)  in the house, kept Dan from showcasing his talent until she went off to college.  He did pretty well with it, and that production remains my favorite of all he has done.  He got typecast though and repeatedly has been cast as a bishop, a priest, and a minister. I like the clergy and all, but I have to admit I'm looking forward to him stepping out of those roles to play an inspector.  With that role he will end his High School drama participation, and head off for bigger and better things.  Dan has an interest in law and politics, and the ability to appear in front of groups will serve him well in either career, but I still wonder if we let him spend too much time on this hobby, at the expense of his grades. I think Dan will be successful in whatever path he chooses, and there is something to be said about allowing your children to follow their passions, but the pragmatist in me will always ponder the true costs of doing that.

     Our youngest, Nolan,  just appeared in his first Middle School production, entitled The Man of Steel. It was a parody of the Superman comics, and it was really entertaining.  Nolan shared the role of Bobby Benson (Jimmy Olsen in the comics), and I thought he did a great job with it.
Nolan, on left, with the Man of Steel
His singing lacked confidence as did most of the cast's, but I could hear most of his lines clearly, and he delivered them with panache.  Nolan has a minor issue with projecting while speaking, and I suspect if he continues in drama that he will overcome this.  I have already seen this change in my niece, Sam, who was also in the play.  I watched her both in the play and as an emcee in a recent steel drum concert that we attended.  She went from a very shy and nervous performer to an ad-libbing actor with a comfortable ease in just a few short years.  She has already received benefits from this new found skill.  Nolan will also, but we may give him a shorter leash on the amount of time spent on Drama. Sometimes, by the time you know that the grades are suffering, you are too committed to drop out, and all you can do is threaten non-participation in the future, but the grades are permanent by then.  It's not as easy decision for either parent or child, and it is not only Drama that can do this, sports, clubs, Scouts, and other outside activities can have the same effect, so where do you draw the line?  If I had the definitive answer, I wouldn't be blogging for free, I'd be selling my secrets to all the parents out there suffering the same angst, and making millions from it.  We all want our kids to do well, but the path isn't always clear to that goal.

     In closing, I'll offer you an invitation to Dan's last performance this weekend. If you want to see Dan Yarger as Inspector Craddock, there are performances both Friday and Saturday nights this week at the Marcus Whitman High School on Baldwin Road in Rushville NY at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available at the door for $8.  If you come, let me know your opinion on the time spent, and the benefits gained, and maybe I'll have a little less parental angst, after all the Munchkin is doing fine now....



Molly said...

Firstly, I was in FIFTH grade when I was in the Wizard of Oz. Minor detail, but a more major one is that MY grades NEVER dipped, let alone due to extra-curriculars! Ask Mom, her memory seems to serve you well where yours fails you. ;]

Kristin said...

Us Yargers just have a flair for the dramatic, I guess!

This post is near and dear to my heart. While I totally agree that sometimes extracurriculars did make me stress about schooling (especially now that I'm in college level theatre, doing two shows at once, as well as juggling college work load and a part time job), I don't think I could have even gotten through high school without Theatre. My experience with theatre actually made me want to try harder in school. Once the homework was out of the way, I could focus on what I loved-performing.

I will also say that my time in the theatre has helped me in so many other aspects of my life. Since theatre is such a collaborative art, I am one of the top employees at my humble part-time job, because I know how to work well with others (and lets face it, I can pretend to be nice to jerky customers really well, also).

I am so glad that so many of my cousins share this same interest as I do and so proud that they are working on productions just as hard as I did. Dan will certainly be able to use the skills he learns as a performer as a politician.

I hope you continue to be so supportive of them, even if it is only a hobby. I am thankful every day that my parents are supportive of me going to college for theatre. And though I am sure they are nervous about my ability to get a job and the practicality of my major, they have never doubted my dream and have been supportive through all of my successes and failures.

Maybe one day we will use our combined skills and create a Yarger family dinner theatre company :)

cdyarger said...

I was hoping for a different ending, LOL! I already know how this one turns out and as the other parent of said kids, I agree wholeheartedly! I wish they weren't always so much like Dad! Kids, you don't always have to be the center of attention!! Great blog honey!

Dan said...

I think in the future, I will look back at that trade off and not have any regrets. it was time well spent and I wouldn't be half of the person I am today without drama club. There is much more to the teenage experience than homework.

Bill said...

From the mouth of babes, comes such wisdom. I have no talent to act in the Yarger Family Dinner Theater, but would be honored to cook for it.

melanie said...

I was going to dispute the timing of the start of Molly's career in drama and I apologize if my memory fails me on specifics, but I believe it all started in elementary school with the role of the clown who's repetitious line of "whole wide woo-wald" made me smile every time and quite frankly it's the only part of the play I remember... just saying.