8 Reasons TYA is Vital in 2018 A Message for World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People

As we mark World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People, observed March 20 around the globe as an annual international celebration of TYA, we must ask: Why is it important? Why does it matter for children to experience live theatre, and for artists to continue to create it? How can TYA be a catalyst for change in our world and in the lives of young people?

Here are 8 reasons why “taking a child to the theatre” is vital in 2018:

1. TYA fosters empathy and understanding as an antidote to our divided world.

Young people see someone else’s life manifest on stage through a character in a story, they walk in another’s shoes, and they ask questions about the experiences of others. With hatred and bigotry on the rise, this basic by-product of theatre-going seems more necessary than ever (Read a range of pieces written by TYA leaders on this topic here).

2. TYA offers live experience in a world dominated by screen-based interaction.

We have become reliant on screen-based connectivity in our daily lives more rapidly than we’ve been able to track its effects on the development of young people, and debates about screen time rage on. Theatre offers young people the increasingly rare chance to unplug and experience something exhilaratingly live (Read playwright Ayad Akhtar’s fierce argument for theatre in the face digital communication here.)

3. TYA encourages young people to passionately find their voice, ask questions, and advocate for their beliefs.

Theatre can provide a young person with a self-awareness about their place in the world, while equipping them with the tools to question, organize, lead, and persuasively articulate their beliefs (See the articles highlighting the fact that the Parkland students leading a revolution on gun control are “theatre kids”).

4. TYA offers the powerful opportunity of representation and recognition of one’s own experience validated and explored on stage.

When prioritized, choice of both casting and content can create powerful moments of confidence and self-worth for young people, merely by holding up a mirror to stories not told nearly enough (Read a range of pieces by TYA artists on this topic here).

5. TYA is a rapidly growing genre as artists continue to expand its definition, allowing kids and families to experience a real diversity in style and content.

From theatre for babies to theatre for teens, large-scale commercial family theatre on Broadway to experimental original work created by small independent companies, touring international work to shows created about one’s own community – there are more options than ever before for kids and families to experience.

6. TYA provides a laboratory to safely wrestle with the confusing issues of the everyday.

Whether young people are tracking the daily news, or just confronting the day-to-day complexities of their school and home environments, theatre can provide an outlet to explore a variety of issues at a distance, and make sense of the noise (Read a range of pieces on this topic here.)

7. TYA leads the way in providing a model for what inclusion in community can look like.

From the wave of sensory-friendly and relaxed performances that have become programmatic staples across the country, to the innovative work being created especially for audiences with special needs, TYA is breaking ground in what it means to be radically welcoming and inclusive in creating the widest tent possible.

8. TYA provides the space for joy, wonder, surprise, and connection between young people, their families, their teachers, their peers, and total strangers joined together as one audience.

Given the realities of our fast, challenging, and complex world, that is reason enough to take a child to the theatre. What could be more important?