A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I often mis-credit my role in my 8th grade play as the start of involvement in performance and that it all really started when my siblings and I put on plays for the rest of our family.
Back in November there was a great article by Lawrence McCullough on Creativity Post about how families can use play making as a communication and learning tool. I was interested to see him suggest this is something you could do with kids as young as four.
Even if you have been in the performing arts for 15 years and think you know what you are doing, it is worth reading the article. These are your kids, not adult professionals or even students you are working with and the goals for the activity are much different. For example, one of the things McCullough warns against is getting an idea and then casting the show before you have any dialogue written.
Even though you don’t work that way professionally, it might be something you would be apt to do with a story the while family knows–telling the story of why Santa delivers presents and deciding who will play Santa, the elves, etc.
If you cast before you know what characters are going to say or really be about, you’re painting children into a corner, locking them into thinking about just one part of the play when they should be exercising their creative abilities to the max.
McCullough talks about many of the benefits of these activities from showing events from your kids’ points of view to providing a tool for resolving problems and, of course, nurturing creativity.
The thing that I oriented most on was his suggestion of using playmaking to tell the family’s stories. I wondered how many families really communicate their stories these days. Are grandparents fulfilling their stereotypical roles of telling stories about the old days for their grandkids to groan about? Since 60 is the new 40 (or whatever) grandparents may be leading too active a life to bother their grandkids with such things.
Yet there is a lot to be learned and bonds to be formed by these stories. My family has a lot of stories: my Sicilian great grandmother being “taught” to speak English resulting in her cursing out her work supervisor instead of wishing him good morning; my father being rewarded for helping out a customer after he clocked out for lunch; my mother and her roommates at an all-girls Catholic college being far more mischievous than my father and his college drinking buddies.
I credit my knowledge of these stories and their attendant lessons to the fact there was no cable television, much less internet when I was growing up. Nowadays, you probably have to make a special effort just to bring everyone together to communicate your family’s struggles and triumphs. Which is why I am suggesting this as a potential New Year’s Resolution.