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Theatre The creative medium of drama


Act on Info agrees that “Theatre in Education has progressed from this point and although it differs from its original form its primary aim is to use theatre and drama to create a wide range of learning opportunities across the whole curriculum. TIE companies will take a particular curriculum subject or topic and build a show or workshop around it.”


Indeed, like any other subject, theatre and drama must be made relevant if it is going to engage children and boost attainment across the curriculum.


A platform for discussion


Theatre in Education is a powerful tool for personal and social development. Engaging and inspiring young people on a number of levels, it has relevance across the curriculum, making it a vital area for funding. Education Today reports …


F


ollowing the recent funding cuts, which saw the work of Creativity, Culture and Education coming to an end, Arts Council England has put steps in place to ensure that its legacy continues: “£10.5 million Lottery a year will be allocated through the National portfolio to a group of Bridge delivery organisations, who will provide a direct connection between the work produced by arts organisations and schools and communities in their area - a gap left by the winding up of the £38 million Creative Partnerships scheme. This is work that is also particularly vulnerable at a time of public sector cuts. Some of the organisations undertaking this work, such as the Royal Opera House’s Thurrock operation and Sage Gateshead, will also take the lead along with Youth Music in implementing the recommendations in the Henley Review on music education.”


Theatre in Education


Theatre in Education started as a separate art form and educational activity in Coventry at the Belgrade Theatre in 1965. A group consisting of actors, teachers and social workers were brought together to create a community outreach team. The team created a project called, Pow Wow which took a group of children and first introduced them to an actor playing a Cowboy. Later the children were introduced to an actor playing an Indian kept in a cage as a prisoner by the Cowboy. The children were given information about both characters and their opposing views in the situation and given the choice of whether or not to free the Indian. “The project had successfully merged theatre and education for the first time,” explains theatre company Act on Info. In the Applied & Interactive Theatre Guide, Toni Sant suggests that Theatre in Education will continues to develop and change: “Theatre in Education (TIE) has a constantly evolving definition, as new strategies and objectives for using theatre as an educational tool emerge. Most define TIE as a general term that includes all


the interactive theatre practices that help aid the educational process. Some of these processes include developing original scripts, using the performance of a play as a springboard for interacting with an audience and discussing important topics or themes, or theatre activities used to support classroom curriculum.“ So, like theatre itself, the definition of Theatre in Education is and always will be, open to interpretation. The theatrical practice used together with the audience interpretation of what they see is what makes theatre such a brilliant platform for analysis and discussion. Interestingly, a recent article in The Guardian read: “Theatre in education, particularly in urban areas, has transformed over the last 10 years. The projects are often extraordinarily sophisticated: young people and community members perform in professionally resourced productions and see a variety of work, all supported by workshops. Many are seemingly au fait with devising, working on text and physical movement. As theatre practitioners and audiences of the future, they are a brilliant and exciting prospect.“ The article adds, however, that Theatre in Education needs to get back to basics. “Getting young people involved in cutting-edge theatre is great, but we shouldn’t forget drama is also a tool for social change.“


With Theatre Studies courses covering the work of leading practitioners of the past, from Stanislavski and his emphasis on social realism to Bertolt Brecht, who sought not empathy with his characters, but a distanced objectivity so that key messages could be discussed and explored – theatre engages participants and audience members on a number of levels. Like a good book, if theatre provides enjoyment and evokes empathy this can only be a good thing in education, if it is used more as a tool for social change with more experimental practices (narrators, banners, plays with music etc) this too can only be a positive.


14 www.education-today.co.uk November 2011


Act On Info is a theatre company who started in 1999 with the aim of promoting learning and development using the creative medium of drama. They provide a range of innovative quality interactive drama workshops, assemblies and Play in a Day for schools and drama workshops and role play for organisations to develop educational, professional, personal, social and creative development.


“All of our drama work in schools has been developed in line with National Curriculum, to raise awareness of specific issues and topics, create a safe forum for debate, and encourage an emotional connection to the work by making learning fun. It is really important to us that we provide your school the very best drama programme we can for your individual needs and budget,” said a representative.


Theatre in education works on a fundamental level because it is interactive. All the shows Act On Info produce, even the ones to larger groups, involve audience participation on some level and this encourages an emotional connection to the work, making it more memorable. “As well as learning about subjects and issues through drama by participating, the pupils are also developing other social and interactive skills such as communication, public speaking, negotiation, awareness of themselves and others, teamwork, improved concentration, and self confidence,” said Alison, an Act on Info facilitator.


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