Role Play : The Benefits

Theatre practitioner, trainer and performer Aruna Ganesh Ram explains how theatre helps, shapes and defines a person; how it channelizes creativity, energy and thought …  and therefore, why children benefit greatly from training in theatre.


I find that theatre benefits children in numerous ways. Its ‘group’ format teaches them responsibility and team play and develops their ability to listen to one another. As a result, they begin to freely voice their opinions among peers and end up having conversations with new confidence.


Theatre transforms young students, sometimes in a year, sometimes in just a session. There are five ways in which theatre impacts children and young adults in their growing years.


Sparking the imagination : making the impossible possible.


A room with chairs and tables becomes the Amazon Rain forest. A room of bookshelves becomes a cricket stadium. You become a rock star.


Theatre enables you to be anything you imagine yourself to be.


Theatre facilitates detailed discoveries through visualization, shaping the way you define and communicate about things you see and things you imagine. It trains you to be a better observer, to develop a very visual way of thinking, which in turn results in quicker conceptualization, in finer detail.


When children develop this skill early on, they turn out to be far more creative and detailed in things they do and they also find news ways to express themselves.


Playing with the rules : pulling, pushing and stretching the concepts of space, time, distance, gravity and the laws of nature.


Theatre training enables the individual to think differently and explore new ways of doing things.


Children love playing with the rules. They always come up with innovative and exciting new ways of doing things. The create new worlds for themselves and exciting situations and end up finding brilliant solutions to them as well.


Putting yourself out there : developing guts and confidence. You get comfortable with your body, its moves, its reactions to stimuli, its response to different situations.


You discover your body’s different energy levels. This enhances confidence levels and the willingness to try new things.


When children go through these situations regularly, it builds their confidence levels immensely. You will find these children volunteering actively for group work, games, debates and more. 


Working together : how people think about the same things in different ways.


Another person’s definition of detail is different from yours and the way they choose to play with rules is again very different from what you choose to do.


You begin to realise that there is no one way, while appreciating differences and working them out to create another outcome altogether.


Children become great team players through this training. They are friendly, welcoming and support one another eagerly. They learn to work together and share their ideas, to create something together.


Risk : expect the unexpected.


Anything can happen in theatre – forgotten cues, missing props, malfunctioning lights. But the show must go on.


Often, these mishaps can be turned into an advantage though quick, confident processing of the situation … and this is spontaneity. Theatre training increases risk appetite. You become more willing to try out new things and take on new roles. And you end up making newer discoveries.


Children develop the ability of spontaneity. They will develop the skill of coming up with ideas for any situation presented.


In conclusion, theatre training helps you to make discoveries not just about yourself but also about other people.


In essence, it is a sense of shared discovery, through shared doing.


Aruna Ganesh Ram is the Artistic Director of Visual Respiration, an international performance company of performances that are visual and visually-led.


Photographs from the Visual Respiration website.


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