I remember that fateful winter day in Mrs. Gleason's Kindergarten class when we put on an original production of Frosty the Snowman.
We had read the picture book, and decided we should put it on as a play. I don't remember if it was our teacher's idea or a child-driven initiative But if it was our teacher she definitely made us 5 year olds feel an ownership of the project. The production value was... nonexistent. We used what we had on hand, and created walls of the stores we passed by standing those blue folding exercise mats on edge (they balance if you accordian them just a bit.) We decided who would play which part, and brought in "costumes" (ie, hats and scarves).
This was beyond fun and exciting. No matter than no one came to see it. We were involved in a fantastic process that taught us about collaboration and creation. It was a magical experience to step inside a storybook and bring it to life like Frosty himself.
I had caught the drama bug and would carry it for life. I didn't catch it from seeing my first touring Broadway play (Annie with Christie Coombs when I was 10) or being in my first fully staged community theater production (Carousel at the Couples' Club in Westwood). Though these experiences fueled the fire, the first spark had been lit on a linoleum classroom floor with blue folding mats.
Now as a drama teacher I look for ways to engage that spark in the kids I teach. I believe theatre has something for everyone. Not every child will be excited to be the policeman and stick out their hand and holler "STOP!" But every child deserves the chance to try it and see what they discover.