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Another Voice: Theatre of Youth benefits the entire community

By Jeffrey L. Anker

As a physician, I want to alert our community to an organization that provides a thoroughly enjoyable medium that helps children with intellectual and emotional development.

An amazing thing happens at the Theatre Of Youth (TOY) when the lights dim. Hundreds of children quiet immediately and remain so as their attention is keenly focused on the performance. They evidence a mindset teachers often have difficulty accomplishing in their classrooms. And the end of each performance is as poignant as the beginning. During the discussion after each play, the students’ interest is evidenced by their endless questions. Their intellectual curiosity has been aroused.

These students are learning in the best possible way: enjoyably, experientially and through identification with the actors and the setting. Music heightens the experience and augments the learning process. In this mode, students can be expected to learn better, more memorably and more fully.

The beauty of the experiential education at TOY is accessible to students of all ages and stages of development. Plays are selected that meet the needs of students of a particular age range and they can observe, experience and understand strong emotions, concepts, principles, values, empathy, human interactions and relationships.

This helps them mature behaviorally, cognitively, affectively, interpersonally and socially. These essential abilities are crucial to the development of one’s self-esteem, self-confidence, self-awareness, self-regulation, self-expression, self-assertion and self-fulfillment.

TOY’s exceptional values, skills, interest and knowledge about children make it an optimal partner for school districts to develop programs that greatly enhance their students’ education. These experiences also benefit communication between the students and their family members.

Instead of monosyllabic responses many parents get from their kids when they ask about their day, the students have something tangible and memorable they are interested in talking about to parents and siblings.

The multimedia artistic efforts that bind the multifaceted educational opportunities are truly meaningful educational experiences. In a phase of American education when funding for the arts has been drastically limited, the cost-effective experience at TOY helps students see and experience that artistic domain. They can experience a theatrical venue and realize how it provides an opportunity to learn performing arts, visual arts, musical arts, creative problem solving strategies and teamwork.

Jeffrey L. Anker, M.D., is assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, medical director of the Center for Advanced Psychiatry of the Department of Psychiatry and a board member of the Mental Health Association of Erie County.