Some of our young actors will continue to be performers for the rest of their lives, but many of them will be applying the skills they learn onstage in vastly different settings. So we work hard on the performance, getting top-notch instructors to teach acting, dancing, singing and all the other skills associated with the theatre, but we also try to maximize the opportunities to learn life skills that can be applied offstage. Every week we watch young people learning to shoulder responsibilities, overcome inhibitions, speak in public, think creatively, work well with others very different from themselves, follow a closely timed and ordered sets of tasks, maintain sustained focus of attention for long periods of time and all the other skills involved in putting on a full-length play. Over the course of several shows we often see great strides made in poise, maturity and confidence. For the majority of our students, these are the lessons that will serve them most.

In rehearsals, we work to develop young people’s instincts for performance, giving them a lot of room to be creative and inviting them, always, to surprise us. We set the highest goals and expectations, but we seldom tell them exactly where to stand, where to look and how to gesture and speak. We don't give them the character, we invite them to find the character within themselves. We supervise them closely but we don't have adults wrangle the kids into their costumes and places, pull the curtains, change the sets and apply the makeup. We teach them how to do these things for themselves. In other words, we give them a lot of responsibilities and we allow them to fail many times before they succeed. We invite them to find within themselves the determination, attention and responsibility to play their roles well both onstage and backstage. This leaves room for the most wonderful surprises and amazing transformations.

Every performance by the Nebraska Youth Theatre represents a lot of individual creativity, hard work and bravery from every member of this cast.  Bravery might sound like an inappropriate adjective for an activity that’s always fun and often silly, but it is our belief that the most rewarding moments in rehearsal, if one is observant, are when some young person, after many failed attempts, takes some small risk or rises to some small challenge which is new to them.  When we see young people struggling to overcome their often formidable inhibitions in rehearsal in order to speak loudly, move boldly, act freely, and sing and dance in front of others, we often think of the polls that perennially suggest that most Americans claim to fear public speaking more than death.

So, one doesn't need to be headed for a life on stage or in front of the camera to benefit from the fun of being in a play. The character we're most concerned with is the one they take out into the world. Whether your young person is destined to be a star or simply needs an outlet for their excess creativity, wants to overcome fears of public speaking or needs to increase their attention span, wants to make new friends or find a place where they fit in, they can do it here. There's a place here for everyone.