Illawarra parents urged to enrol kids in drama classes after ATYP research highlights positive benefits of performing arts

COOL GROUP: The Illawarra Youth Arts Project recently performed Grease: The Musical at Anita’s Theatre. This year will see them produce Aladdin Jr in April, and Rock Of Ages later in the year which they will be auditioning soon. Picture: Star Struck
COOL GROUP: The Illawarra Youth Arts Project recently performed Grease: The Musical at Anita’s Theatre. This year will see them produce Aladdin Jr in April, and Rock Of Ages later in the year which they will be auditioning soon. Picture: Star Struck

Illawarra drama teachers have welcomed a push for parents to get their children involved in theatre and dramatic arts.

The Australian Theatre for Young People recently commissioned research which surveyed more than 1,200 ATYP participants, parents, alumni and other stakeholders. The findings highlighted the positive benefits associated with young people engaging in group drama such as stress relief and resilience.

According to the ATYP special report: Building mental wellness and agility through youth theatre, participation in youth theatre had a positive impact on the well-being of 94 per cent of youth involved, helped 71 per cent build resilience to cope with challenges and helped 52 per cent reduce their anxiety levels. Most participants (89 per cent) reported improved self-confidence, team work (88 per cent) and interpersonal skills (84 per cent) as a result of their involvement in theatre.

Fiona Gabb-Finley founded The Drama Studio (which runs at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre) in 1988 and has seen first hand these benefits and said regardless of whether students go on to pursue profession careers in performance or not, being involved in drama teaches them important life skills.

COOL GROUP: The Illawarra Youth Arts Project recently performed Grease: The Musical at Anita’s Theatre. This year will see them produce Aladdin Jr in April, and Rock Of Ages later in the year which they will be auditioning soon. Picture: Supplied

COOL GROUP: The Illawarra Youth Arts Project recently performed Grease: The Musical at Anita’s Theatre. This year will see them produce Aladdin Jr in April, and Rock Of Ages later in the year which they will be auditioning soon. Picture: Supplied

“The ability to communicate, to empathise, they’ve had those years to play out different social settings and different emotions, to learn to communicate as a group, to explore their imagination, to learn to speak clearly and speak in front of others,” Mrs Gabb-Finley said.

She said students continue to support the arts beyond their studies as either audience or participants for local productions or going on to pursue a professional career, while life-long friendships are often also nurtured in performance classes.

Anne-Louise Rentell teaches drama to children as well as people of varying abilities (aged 10 and up) and said being involved in performing arts visibly boosts one’s confidence and sense of self.

“Particularly for young people with a perceived intellectual disability, creating a space where they have freedom to express and be themselves is so important, it provides a sense of belonging and inclusion,” Ms Rentell said.

The ATYP research also explored how participation in youth theatre can develop technical skills which benefit young people in the classroom, in tertiary education, and have the potential to improve employability when they are ready to join the workforce.

The report identified immediate outcomes which benefit young people in all aspects of life including storytelling skills (80 per cent), improvising (78 per cent), technical skills (71 per cent) and writing skills (54 per cent).

“Youth theatre not only supports the health and wellness of young people, it also develops skills that prepare them for the future. Having confidence and the ability to work in a team puts young people ahead of the curve for endeavours later in life,” said ATYP general manager Amy Maiden.

There are multiple drama and acting classes for young people across the Illawarra. Australia’s leading acting facility NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) also regularly holds workshops for young people at IPAC.

The region also has a number of amateur theatre companies staging productions with children and young people – some of these include Arcadians, Stanwell Park Arts Theatre, The Roo Theatre, Kiama Actors Studio, So Popera Productions, The Phoenix Theatre and Illawarra Youth Arts Project (IYAP).

IYAP is holding an information night on their upcoming production, Rock of Ages, on January 30. Details via their Facebook page.