Last week, as I sat through the longest two and a half hours I’ve ever spent in a theater, I was reminded why it’s so important for us to expose our kids to the arts.

My daughter was in her first high school play (her school is a 7-12, so they let the middle-school kids participate, too). It’s the first play they’ve done in years because of the pandemic. In fact, I’m not sure they did dramatic plays before the pandemic, either.

So, this was new territory for them. And the first play the well-intentioned but poorly reasoned directors chose for these 12- to 18-year-olds to perform? The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with that play, click here and read about it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

So, yeah. Heavy stuff for kids. Hard material for any actor.

Add to that the fact that they had basically a month to rehearse.

You guessed it. It didn’t go well. Only Nola, who had a smaller part, and one of the other main actors had their lines memorized. The rest had to have lines fed to them from the wings by the director. It was a small theater, so we all heard those in stereo. And one of the actors was so poorly prepared that he had to carry around a book the whole time with his lines in them. He didn’t look up once, not even when he was trying to strangle Dorian Gray.

It. Was. Torture.

And I had to sit through it because I love my kid. When I wasn’t trying not to gouge my own eyes out, I was jealously looking over at my husband, who can nap anywhere…

I don’t blame the kids. This is a poor community, and they probably haven’t been exposed to real theater. Plus, they didn’t have the time to prepare, and they were set up to fail by the material. I also don’t blame the directors (much) because they’re young and at least they’re trying to offer these kids some access to the arts.

But I did have plenty of time to think about how we can get these kids more exposure to quality art. I will be working on that.

A huge part of teaching is understanding your subject. Those directors did not. But when the teacher does: wow, is that powerful!

And if you’re a writer looking to hone your craft, have I got some powerful teachers for you! Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are masters of their craft and will gladly share that mastery with you through online workshops and the occasional in-person one.

If you prefer in-person workshops, you still have time to sign up for the Romantic Suspense Craft Workshop or the Fantasy/Thriller Craft Workshop, both taught by Kris later this year in Las Vegas.

And if you prefer online workshops, Dean and Kris have hundreds of options for you through Teachable. Click here for the full list.

And this February, Dean has even resurrected two classic workshops to full workshop status, with homework and everything, in addition to the other regular workshops where you can Study with Dean. Click here to see those.

It’s so important to keep learning. Especially from excellent instructors.

As for me, I’ve learned never to go to a high school play again without my AirPods…

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.