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Why are healthy relationships important in theater?

Theater means communication and collaboration. Students come together to tell a story and create a collective experience for an audience. When students work together, it is important to maintain healthy relationships within their group. This does not mean that students are all best friends. However, it involves trust and respect, a sense of community and effective problem solving.

Healthy relationships are built on trust, which is necessary when creating theater.

When creating theater, students need to be able to trust each other, no matter what role someone plays in the production. They need to be able to be vulnerable with each other and know that others in the production will support them. They need to be confident that the actors will execute their lines and block them accurately. They need to be confident that the stage management will follow the directions correctly and that the technicians will perform their tasks effectively. In addition, they need to be confident that their director (that’s probably you!) Will help them develop in their roles and lead them through a successful production. By developing healthy relationships, students will build trust for each other and vice versa – building trust leads to healthier relationships. They need to give and receive trust and respect.

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Healthy relationships contribute to a sense of community.

As I said earlier, students will not immediately become best friends when working on a production. But they will spend many, many hours together working on the show. They will spend their time, talents and efforts to achieve a common goal. Through this process, students will connect through the common experience of organizing a show together. A common bond creates a community. And when others see and feel this sense of community, they will probably want to join. Which means your theater program will grow!

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Having healthy relationships will help students to solve problems effectively in the heat of the moment.

When students do live theater, the question is not if something will go wrong, but when. Part of building and maintaining healthy relationships is finding ways to solve problems as a team without playing the blame game. The way students (and teachers!) React in the midst of a theatrical “crisis” will affect their relationships. When problems arise, everyone needs to stay calm and get into trouble. It is the ultimate challenge of improvisation! Knowing that you have a strong team you can rely on in the middle of a stressful time is extremely reassuring. And if a student panics and reacts badly at this time, having those healthy relationships will make it easier for him to apologize, seek forgiveness, and repair the relationship afterwards.

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So how can you help your students develop healthy relationships? Try some of these:

  • Ask students to give to each other Hot fuzzie.
  • Praise your students and tell them you appreciate them.
  • Ask students to share their production goals with the Wish Jar exercise.
  • Encourage students to gather as a group outside of rehearsal to practice.
  • Ask students to explore their thoughts on healthy relationships by completing journal entries by answering questions on this topic (download some sample questions below). If they feel comfortable doing so, ask them to share their answers with their classmates. They may be surprised to find that they have some thoughts in common with others.

Click here for a selection of healthy relationship journal recommendations.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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