GUEST COMMENTARY: Community theater makes a difference

2014-03-27T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Community theater makes a differenceBecky Jascoviak nwitimes.com
March 27, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The very essence of drama is conflict. And resolution. In story, whether fanciful or true-to-life, we find exploration of how to resolve conflict. Sometimes in a healthy way, sometimes through the example of how not to do it. Our political and governmental leaders should take a lesson from the pages of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Simon and Rogers — conflicts can be resolved if there is desire to find resolution. Second, they require meaningful conversation, both speaking and listening. Finally, they require creative solutions — all in the confines of respect.

Perhaps it’s the lack of representative drama these leaders are exposed to. Perhaps it’s lack of opportunity to explore the great orations or being challenged by the witty repartee found in Shakespeare’s writings. When was the last time you picked up a good drama?

There are a couple statistics I found amazing, and they should spur us all on to finding a way to keep the arts in schools. Did you know students who participate in the arts throughout high school score more than 100 points higher on their SATs? Did you know at-risk eighth-graders highly involved in the arts have better grades, less likelihood of dropping out by grade 10, have more positive attitudes about school, and are more likely to go on to college? Did you know U.S. employers rate creativity and innovation among the top five skills?

However, over the past several decades, arts education has suffered at the hands of the budget crises. As a result, I believe, we are experiencing leaders who cannot intelligently debate issues with leagues of followers who cannot discern truth from rhetoric. Arts education is critical to the development of well-rounded students, citizens and leaders.

Did you also know the arts are alive and well here in Northwest Indiana? In the most recent quality of life study performed by One Region, the arts were the bright spot in the whole report. Northwest Indiana scored higher in that category than any other, including transportation, health care, education, economic development and others.

On any given weekend, patrons needn’t make the trek to Chicago to find great live theater or experimental music. Just down the street in the center of town you’ll find thriving community theaters, passionate high school productions, open stage performance opportunities and a plethora of arts-inspired offerings throughout the region. A short drive to neighboring communities brings you even more opportunities!

Want to try your hand at being on stage? Are you willing to lend your painting, carpentry or administrative skills? All of our theaters would welcome your volunteering! Get out! Get on stage! Be an audience member! Donate your time, talent, spectacular goods and even your money to your local theaters — members of your community who make this place a great place to live! They need your support! To find more information on local theater, visit www.nietf.org.

Becky Jascoviak is president of the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation, an alumnus of Leadership Northwest Indiana, and is the grant writer for Kids Alive International. The opinions are her own.

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