Participation in sports is often highlighted as a way to promote skills that can be of value throughout life. Leadership, teamwork and fair play often come to mind. But there are other pursuits with the same characteristics that are available to young people, and those include the performing arts.
“Musical theater is a great vehicle to teach life skills like responsibility, communication, public speaking. Those are skills they’ll take wherever they go in life.”
Those were recent comments by Joe Oblon, director of Meriden Youth Theatre. The YMCA program is for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade, and puts on eight productions a year.
Just as locals can take pride in athletic achievement, as in, say, Maloney High School’s football championship last season, they can take pride in the upcoming production of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical,” scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19. The show will mark a return of productions that include grownups. As the Record-Journal’s Karla Santos reported, camp staff and counselors in training will take part.
“We are really looking forward to having the kids learn from being on stage with adults and with older actors,” said Oblon.
The next production is “Elf-The Musical Jr.” which is set for July 28 and 29.
One area in which there is room for improvement is diversity, though Oblon said the theater group has been improving in that regard in recent years. “Now, we begin to see that change, both here in Meriden and in other communities,” he said. The diversity of casts in Broadway productions like “Hamilton” have helped.
At least one young participant Santos spoke with is looking for a career in the performing arts once she’s grown up.
That the theater group can provide an outlet for such ambition is a major plus, of course, but it’s also valuable for those whose experience won’t reach that far. What matters are the skills learned, involvement and accomplishment. From that point of view a thriving youth theater is a major community asset.