The arts — activities like painting, dance and theater can offer something special for children who may not fit into athlete role
By Lisa Snowden-McCray
Susan Kobren says her son, Sam, endured eight years of torment in school before he found a place where he could be himself — onstage.
“Everybody just completely accepted him. They respected his talent.”
She says that he wasn’t accepted by the other kids at school; he was teased. Sam was miserable until, at the age of 13, he found the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis.
Sports like soccer, football and baseball are often the go-to activities when parents are looking for something extra for their kids to get into. But the arts — activities like painting, dance and theater can offer something special for children who may not fit into the role of athlete. That’s what Kobren discovered.
A Chance for Change
“It was life-changing for him,” she says about her now-17-year-old son. “He found a place where he could be himself. When that happened, the teasing stopped at school because he didn’t care anymore.”
Although she lives in Howard County, Kobren says she gladly made the 80-mile round trip to Annapolis because theatre helped her son in a way nothing else could. She says acting gives him a chance to show a different side of himself.
“At school, he wants to be invisible, wants people to leave him alone,” she says. However, “there is nothing he won’t do onstage.”
Kobren’s younger son Danny is 15 and is also involved in theater. He was drawn to it after he saw Sam participate. Each boy is different, so each gets something different out of his participation. Danny was always more social than Sam. Although he didn’t need the outside peer group the way Sam did, he has still embraced it. Both boys, she said, have thoroughly enjoyed their time performing. It gave her more athletically-inclined husband a chance to expand his horizons, too.
Not only did theater give Sam confidence — it gave him an activity that could grow as he did. Sam is too old now to perform in productions with the Theatre, but helps out as a teacher. He also hopes to take his theatre experience with him into adulthood. A junior in high school, he’s looking into theatre programs for college.
There’s evidence that Sam and Danny’s experiences aren’t anomalies. A 1999 study conducted by arts advocacy group The Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities found a few things that apply to their story: that the arts reach students in a way they are not being reached otherwise, and that arts provide new challenges for students already considered successful, just to name a few.