Metropolitan Educational Theatre Network’s program is not just about putting on plays. When you look at our literature and the educational philosophies, you will see we promote and encourage such things as self-esteem, focus, discipline, determination, imagination, creativity, social skills, memorization techniques, motor skills, and coordination. All of this happens through the act of a live theatrical event. However, we do not set out to solely produce a show. We set out to educate and inspire.
Weekly rehearsals are comprised of a mix of creative theatre games, exercises to encourage public speaking, as well as actual rehearsal time, which includes learning songs, dances, and staging for the show. This process further builds on our philosophy.
We do our very best to make sure each and every single child goes on stage on opening night feeling proud of what they have accomplished. We hope they can feel good about mastering the dance step they struggled with for weeks, feel confident they finally hit that note without sounding sharp or flat, and know they are presenting themselves in the best possible way. In rehearsals, if even one child is not doing a dance step right, one of the members of our staff will help them so they can execute that step to the very best of their ability.
It takes many weeks and months to get our cast to where they are when an audience sees them. The majority of children who walk through our doors have absolutely no formal theatrical training of any kind. Despite this, they are performing in front of hundreds of people throughout the course of a run of a show. What the audience sees is the final arrival of what we hope to be a wonderful and exciting journey. A journey that has taken lots of hard work, by both our staff and cast.
All of our cast members are placed into age appropriate groups for their weekly rehearsals. An important part of this program is to develop skills that contribute to their socialization and the development of friendships they may never otherwise have if they were put in a school setting. We have found that a child typically finds it harder to speak up or feel free to be imaginative and creative if they are in a group with children who are not their own age. Our theatre games and other various activities are geared towards age levels. We cannot expect a nine-year-old to be as open to a challenging improvisation game that even a fifteen-year-old is hesitant to attempt. No matter how talented that nine-year-old is, we feel they have more of a chance to reach their full potential when placed with their peers.
Finally, each group is fully active during their rehearsal time. They are not sitting and waiting for indefinite periods of time while others rehearse. They are fully engaged and productive during their own rehearsal time.
If parents are looking for their child to be a star, and that is all they are interested in, we strongly encourage them to go somewhere else, as it is not what we are about. Of course parents often have a biased opinion of their children, and with good reason. Every parent sees their child as a star, and in many ways, they are. However, our staff is in the room every week seeing how each child is progressing; working with them and seeing how they do with this dance step or that note, seeing what happens when they are performing in front of a large group. Many parents come to us saying, “But my child sings the songs perfectly at home and in the car.” However, it is not uncommon for a child to be quite different when they get in front of us. These are the things parents do not see in the rehearsal room. Please trust us to set every child up for success.
Again, please keep our philosophies in mind. The young people who are with us are a mixed bunch. Some have taken voice or singing or acting for years, others have never even seen a live play in their lives, let alone study any sort of theatrical discipline. We strive to even that ground and give them a unique experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. While many of our students have ended up on TV, Broadway, and international and national tours, we also have other alumni who are now lawyers, doctors, broadcast journalists, teachers, scientists, pilots, and entertainment industry professionals on the other side of the table (i.e. directors, writers, agents). While these people may no longer act or perform, we have heard time and again over the years they still attribute their will, drive, and ability to accomplish great things by what was instilled in them during their many years of children’s theatre. These are the success stories we love to hear most, and there are many. Even if a child does not stay with us but receives an appreciation for the arts, or learns to value creativity and imagination, we are thrilled that perhaps we have helped to set that foundation. In a time of such drastic cuts in arts education, we feel that, in itself, is a great accomplishment.