People who believe the arts are not fundamental to a good education are perhaps defining too narrowly the purpose of art, and the skills that come with practicing creative expression.
The process of bringing a character from page to stage engages mind and heart: actors memorize lines, which helps keep those synapses firing, and learn compassion for actual people through the exploration of the characters that they are portray. Many who fear public speaking have found confidence through theatre—playing a character that isn't yourself and speaking words written by someone else frees you from a certain amount of personal responsibility, and is a great way to work up to delivering your own speech to a crowd.
Improv theatre is also a treasure-chest of useful skills. In business, thinking on your feet is important, and there is no safer, more effective way to learn how to do that than a class on improvisational theatre. The self-consciousness that may walk hand-in-hand with you quickly disappears when you enter the “Yes, and...” space, where everything is in the moment and nothing is rejected out of hand. Improv is also used to help those with various levels of anxiety to confront situations and people; less fear and more confidence are results that everyone can achieve.
This commentary originally aired on June 19, 2017.