I am a beginning teacher in the field of drama education. I realise that what I am about to say is rather radical, however please bear with me. You see, I believe that theatre as an art form is a somewhat ‘dead’ medium, overtaken by the digital age. In spite of this, the elements so integral to performance continue to live strong. Connection, stories, communication and expression are things that humans all desire. We long to deliver and receive messages and ultimately I think, connect with each other. Without imagination, dreams and discovery, then I cannot see the point to life. Artists question who we are, why we are here and challenge preconceived and existing ideas and structures. They make us reflect on our own values and beliefs, at the same time helping to shape them.
Drama is a dynamic practice that introduces students to a world of wonder and play. It encourages them to continue questioning, exploring and teasing out new ideas and ways of living and thinking. I don’t think drama is about being the best performer or the next Hollywood star, I think it is about creating and making, exploring and responding in the search of our true selves and meaningful connections with others and the world around us.
I studied acting techniques, improvisation, mime & movement, performance, voice & communication skills for eight years from the age of seven outside of school and all through my schooling years. The confidence, skill and insight it gave me into myself and the arts was enormous. I highly recommend the study of drama for children or adults at whatever age. The imaginative and creative stimulation that drama provides is a benefit to all, no matter what age, occupation or background. I am forever grateful that my mum sent me to acting school when I was a kid. I think in many ways art and drama saved me from a humdrum life! But enough about me.
Let’s Get Started:
I have written this online companion to help you discover why drama is the best subject to study ever. Read on to find out the 79 reasons why kids need study drama at high school…..
*NB: these reasons are in no particular order and for some I have provided more detailed explanations to elaborate particular points.
- It will increase your self-esteem and confidence.
- You will make heaps of friends.
- You will learn the skills of listening, negotiating and communicating.
- It will expand your cultural awareness. You will tour through a rich history of traditions and cultures. You will begin to know and appreciate that which is culturally and historically valuable.
- You will learn empathy and identification. Drama opens up new dimensions of emotional experiences. By observing other people’s creative processes and products, it can assist you in accessing emotions, along with understanding different ways of interpreting and understanding information. In drama we express ideas, observations and feelings by making choices about roles and/or characters
- It will increase your ability to think; creatively, imaginatively and divergently. You will learn how to think outside the square. Drama teaches students how to become critical consumers, rather than just passive viewers. Students are expected to question and critique their own and others’ processes and products.
- You will develop higher order thinking skills. We can often be limited by our own attitudes and beliefs. Drama requires us to view things from multiple perspectives, inviting us to share control of a narrative between different players. This automatically widens our perspectives, allowing us to synthesise and evaluate information at a much higher level.
- You will learn how to be creative. “Creativity, is an acquired behaviour – learnable, teachable, tangible and crucial to human development” (1)
- You will express your creativity in a variety of ways. In drama there is no right or wrong, creative play is encouraged and mistakes are often happy accidents. “Creative people do things. They make. They assemble. They put together. They make connections where connections were not previously apparent”. (2)
- You will connect not only with yourself, but with other disciplines, cultures, traditions and most importantly with an audience.
- You will learn how to work in a team effectively. Drama is full of games, or rather complex group dynamics and team building exercises (games sound more fun). Learning how to work collaboratively is a precious and important skill. Drama helps you learn how to let go of what you want to say and respond to others’ viewpoints or actions in a safe and fun environment.
- You will learn about philosophical, ideological and political perspectives that different arts work represent (all drama is drawn from the world – we actually teach the basis of western civilization when we explore Ancient Greek Theatre. Pretty cool huh?).
- You will walk away with an understanding of important aspects of our psychology – who we are, what we think, feel and act vs what we say and do.
- You will learn how to evaluate various art works and know what works, what doesn’t and why.
- You will learn how to speak in a more articulate manner, at the same time you will get to put on funny accents, or even sing or talk in jibberish.
- You will learn how to use your body in ways that make people laugh.
- You will learn how to make people cry.
- You will learn how to mime, juggle or dance or sing or do clowning.
- You will begin to fully understand and experience the reality “that play is a natural way that children learn and develop”. (3)
- You will learn how to put on a theatre show or performance.
- You will become better writers and therefore increase your literacy and numeracy skills, through script writing, performance analysis and creative writing exercises.
- You will expand your vocabulary and begin to use words like “hybrid” and “embody”.
- You will learn how to memorise things (learning lines requires practice, determination and advanced memory skills).
- You will make meaning by undoing meaning… and you will understand what these kinds of oxymorons mean (see, I said you would expand your vocabulary).
- You will learn about emotions and how to express them.
- You will celebrate differences and diversities.
- You will learn how to give feedback and take on board feedback. Drama teaches us how to ask questions that help make sense of learning. The two simple questions; ‘what worked’ and ‘what could be improved next time’ encourage students to offer constructive feedback and think critically and positively about their own and others’ performances.
- You will get over your insecurities. In drama you have a right to be silly. One’s ability to laugh at our mistakes and ourselves is important in a business that can be tough and demanding. As students, it is sometimes difficult to take criticism of one’s work. In drama students have the chance to give and take feedback in a constructive way, not personal or hurtful. At the same time, their skin needs to toughen. The arts industry is generally very demanding, especially when thousands of dollars have been invested in a show or performance. Students need to learn this and to be disciplined in their approach to a professional career but, at the same time, be willing to laugh and enjoy themselves in the process.
- You will learn how to act with spontaneity and without self-consciousness. Remember though, this takes time and relies on how safe students feel with both teacher and other classmates. The ability to do this shows coöperation and communication in drama.
- You will learn experientially (this means you will actually experience what you are learning, meaning you will ‘do’ it, and not just passively rote learn information).
- You will learn about stagecraft and principles of design, by getting involved in set designs or making models of sets (by the way, this is actually applied mathematics).
- You will paint, make things and dress up in costumes and wigs.
- You will get to play games (I mean, take part in team building exercises and complex group dynamics!).
- You will be active. Drama is an active subject that requires you to get up and move most of the time.
- You will learn how to tell a story and communicate with and without using words. Drama encourages us to communicate through different ways, whether it be through movement or speech or even just sounds. “Communication is at the crux of art”. (4)
- You will learn how to do things in slow motion.
- You will learn how to do things in fast motion.
- You will learn to get in touch with your subconscious.
- You will learn how to think on your feet.
- You will learn how to focus and concentrate.
- You will discover how to play with tension.
- You will have fun. “The highest level of creativity unfolds through play.” – Albert Einstein
- You will maintain a sense of individuality and discover how to celebrate this. You will demonstrate development of a personal style. (5)
- You will build working relationships with other peers that may develop into long-lasting friendships and professional dynamics.
- You will have opportunities to become a great leader or the star of the high school production.
- You will learn how to excel in public speaking/ presenting.
- You will get to play around with multi/ hybrid arts. In drama popular culture can be used to explore kids lives and identities. Studies show that learning is made more meaningful and effective when students are given the opportunity to link their school activities to real-life experiences (6).
- You will discover a process known as ‘reflection’. Reflection is not about solving problems, rather it is about noticing what is going on when you have a feeling or experience and suggesting possibilities that enrich our repertoire of understanding and influence our own art-making.
- You will create plays from stimulus materials (such as picture books, music, film/ video).
- You will learn how to articulate what you want by working with others and taking on various roles, such as director.
- You will get to engage in fun assessments. In drama these can include performances, performance reviews, portfolios, journals, scripts and even making masks.
- You will learn how to make fun of yourself and not take yourself so seriously.
- You will find out how to create characters out of a simple body movement or picture.
- You will discover how to do the impossible: fly, draw the world, dissolve your body…(7).
- You will learn how to change your psychological and physiological state by simply changing the way that your body is positioned.
- You will understand how to use heightened use of language, alliteration, hyperbole and may even speak in verse.
- You will learn about rhythm and timing.
- You will learn all about comedy; such as pathos, satire, commedia dell’arte and physical comedy.
- You will learn the rules of improvisation. Improvisation involves craft and skill, inviting students to think imaginatively and on their feet. One of the most important rules in improvisation is that you must accept all offers made by your partner, and not deny them. This allows a scene to be carried out to its full potential.
- You will learn how to act in response to others, not just when you have lines to say.
- You will learn how to push beyond your boundaries.
- You will learn how to create new work by using conventions from other styles. Drama is not just about creating, it is about “re-creating”.
- You will learn how to play with mood and atmosphere, through such things as music, to emotionally affect your audience.
- You will learn how to create soundscapes (Watch a great example of this HERE.)
- You will learn how to transform objects, place, character through your body and imagination.
- You will get to see the bigger picture and on the flip side, explore the minutiae.
- You will begin to understand the creative process. “Choices, alternatives, failures and doubt: The creative person works all of them out”. (8)
- You will get to (more than likely) go and see live performances.
- You will (more than likely) love your high school drama teacher. “Great drama teachers encourage students to develop a productive class-wide community that is focused on achievement”. (9)
- You will understand the difference between what it takes to be a professional artist.
- You will learn about discipline, routine and structure without having to go to military school. The drama classroom can be like working in a professional theatre at times. For example, if you miss a performance, your absence affects the whole dynamics of the show.
- You will be encouraged to be curious, open, present, inquisitive and funny.
- You will learn how to research information online and offline and therefore gain the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources. (10)
- You will use technology (such as lights, video and sound) to create your own shows or school productions. “Technology can often and does enrich and extend the imagination of students.” (11)
- You will learn how to rethink, reconsider, replace, refine, redo, reaffirm, reprocess, rewrite and reconceptualize. What better lesson could kids learn in coping with life than the importance of the “re” component? (12)
- You will learn how to be persistent and to learn from failures as well as successes. “We’ve failed, Mr Edison, for the 250th time”. Edison’s reply: “We’ve not failed, Now we know 250 things that won’t work”. (13)
- You will learn to be aware. “People can become more and more creative by simply becoming more conscious of what it is that they do. The creative person sees the ordinary extraordinarily”. (14)
- You will discover ways that you can make change, because “Creative people change the world”. (15) So there.
- You can make up your own A – Z of drama and theatre (click HERE to see an example).
As you can see drama offers kids no end of tools to handle all areas of life. I think it is the role of the drama teacher to communicate these reasons to students and work passionately to hammer home these points. There are many ways that drama teachers can do this, whether it is taking a tour through the rich history of theatre and performance styles or embedding learning within explorations of popular culture. Whatever modus operandi the teacher uses, no doubt they will wrestle with many ways to push boundaries and create compelling learning. At the same time, drama teachers must strive to successfully deliver a curriculum based on creating and making, exploring and responding. I look forward to meeting you in the drama room or at the next performance night.