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The idle brain is the devil's playground

June 24, 2013 - Erin O'Neill
Somebody once said “all the world’s a stage” and somebody else said “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” I do actually know who these words are attributed to, but that’s not the point.

Playacting and pretending are intrinsic behaviors in young children. Some children never grow out of it. For those children, the outlets in which to express themselves in this creative way are becoming few and far between, especially in small communities. Much like recreational sports, extracurricular artistic endeavors are so beneficial for children, offering an alternative to sitting at home doing nothing or, even worse, running the streets looking for trouble - with a capital 'T'. These activities also build self-esteem and teach life lessons such as working with a team, learning discipline and interpersonal communications and, in some cases, humility.

Luckily for the children of the Mid-Ohio Valley, there are quite a few places outside of school where they can hone their acting skills, perfect their dancing technique or pick up a paint brush. Marietta Dance Academy, the Actor’s Guild, Riverside Artists Gallery, Parkersburg Art Center, Stacy’s Dance Studio, Third Street Music — these are just a few of the places that offer opportunities for children to express themselves in a safe environment.

One place in particular holds a special place in my heart. The Mid-Ohio Valley Players has offered an opportunity for young would-be thespians since sometime in the early 1980s. (I’m being purposely vague because I was actually in the very first Junior Players troupe.) Our play was called “Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf” and it has been repeated a couple times over the years because it was such a lovely, timeless and fun play, based on Aesop’s Fables.

I enjoyed the experience so much and I knew that ever since my own little budding actress took a turn toward the dramatic, that it is something she would have to experience, too. So we will be spending a lot of time at 229 Putnam St. this summer as the cast of very talented young people prepares to put on “The Music Man Jr.”

I was lucky enough to sit through the auditions and, though I would have loved to see many more children and teens turn out for this classic musical, I was impressed with just how fearless and genuinely talented many of these young people were that actually did go out for the show. I was also able to share in the joy of my child’s first cast list posting experience — seeing her name written by the role that she wanted so badly to get. She deserves all the credit — this time around I am only the taxi and the moral support.

But I do know firsthand that these kids genuinely benefit from spending the summer with similar creative minds and feeling like they are where they belong. For those who have ever trod the boards, you know there is absolutely nothing like it. I am so grateful that this opportunity still exists.

For anyone who is curious about Junior Players or MOVP’s Youth Theater productions, visit their website at or better yet, come down and take in a show. “The Music Man Jr.” will be performed Aug. 2, 3 and 4.


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