Children tend to approach theater in two different ways. They either submit to the ensemble or they are driven to stand out.

The members of the ensemble turn in and create a collective, which does not prize audience involvement, but involvement of their peers. They are not concerned about being heard by anyone but each other. Children form this collective out of shyness, out of imagination, out of needing each other to form the bricks of their imaginary world. With rich imaginations, they create a temporary world, whose fragile fabric evaporates slowly after they have finished their creation. Usually more girls than boys like to work in this manner. The group triumphs over the individual, Socialism over the . Individual.

Theater is the place where ‘let’s pretend’ becomes controlled play. But there are those children that don’t fit into this mold. More often than not, they are boys, and more often than not, they are crying for attention. Less absorbed in the world of imagination, they strive for the audience. They want the audience. Less willing to submit to the group, they tend to be center stage in performances. They happily engage the audience.

Girls tend to be more socially mature and thus they succeed at collective work; a microcosm of Society’s good and altruistic behavior. Boys: less developed socially, turn outwards with a “look at me” bent. ‘Look at me fall out of the tree!’ ‘Look at me chase the birds!’ The contracts that boys make with the audience tend to be ultimately more successful than the contracts girls have with their fellow players. Young girls have to be taught to engage the audience and young boys have to be taught to acknowledge their fellow actors. But young people that are driven to succeed in the arts make that contract with the audience.

The collective behavior and the individualistic behaviors are independently unsuccessful, but when melted in the crucible of training and performance, there is something magical created, the shining alloy of performance. Teacher, director, writer, actor and audience shape and change each other.. Socially advanced, the collective of girls find in the theatre, a place to share their love of language, their imagination and their desire to build. Like the Greek actor: Thespis, who stepped out from the chorus, the boy stands outside the walls of the Collective and demands that they pay attention to him. In theatre, far more girls are drawn to this magical world, than are boys, but it is the boys that succeed more often. The me-first behavior of boys tends to get noticed more by audiences and directors. Girls can be absolutely brilliant but be upstaged by a boy simply looking out at the audience and talking to them, of including the audience in his play. He needs the audience to make him whole and she doesn’t.

After a while the collective and the individual make compromises and they learn from each other. The shy child learns to turn out and to share their rich imagination with willing audiences. The extrovert learns to use the tools of the ensemble work to further his or her aims, which is merely to please the audience.

Together they form a community, which depends on the strength of the other. The Collective and the Individual, Girl and Boy, form their own unique theatrical community, which dissolves with the final applause. The theater grows dark waiting for more of the same, waiting for another community of actors.

Alone, it is empty.

Charles G. Robertson

Charles is a playwright, producer, and drama coach living in Kingston Ontario, Canada. He is a partner in Bottle Tree Productions; resident company at The Grand Theatre, His award-winning plays are inspired by the actors with whom he works. Charles has an extensive roster of directorial credits ranging from Shakespeare to Dario Fo..