A number of researchers, and parents for that matter, are grappling with the effects of screen time on young children. In this day and age, when students are so attached to their phones, it could be more important than ever to counter screen time with that of theater.

“Theater forces young people to connect with each other,” says Mrs. Naghib, the director of the annual Shakespeare play. “You can’t text a line to the audience; you can’t build the set on your iPad. You have to bring your whole self to the production; you have to be in the present.”

In fact, the performance of and preparation for a production, like Julius Caesar, is a terrific example of fostering 21st Century Skills:

Collaboration & Teamwork
Communication Skills
Critical Thinking

Theater teaches us through a unique learning style. Obviously, we hone our communication skills – such as enunciation, projection, memorization – but we also learn to support one another other under a unified goal.

Without collaboration, the production would fail miserably. Students work together to build the set. They collaborate to pull together a scene. They coordinate lighting and sound to All very integral parts of a production.

But one of the most undervalued experiences in theater is the way it nurtures critical thinking skills. “To truly master a part, actors must immerse themselves in the role, says Mrs. Naghib. “If it is an older production and we are bringing it to the present time, we must be able to understand the differences in the setting.”

It isn’t easy.

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An interesting twist to Julius Caesar this year is a change in the time period. The play is set in an alternate history, with Rome being a Soviet Satellite in the early 1990’s. This brought a whole new set of challenges as the students delved deeper into their roles.

Understanding what motivates a character takes time to research and requires a deeper level of understanding. This is a critical part of the process of acting. Asking questions of the character requires a significant time for reflection and thought:

Why is my character responding in this manner?
What would I do in this situation? Why?
What external forces are in play to make my character respond like this?
What social norms are in play in this time period in comparison to today?

These are all simple questions, but part of the learning process. One of our goals is to have the students to be reflective about the material, to dig deeper into themselves and the role. It’s not just understanding a character; it’s an exercise in critical thinking.