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How Theatre Educates

How Theatre Educates: Convergences and Counterpoints with Artists, Scholars, and Advocates

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    How Theatre Educates
    Book Description:

    How Theatre Educatesis a fascinating and lively inquiry into pedagogy and practice that will be relevant to teachers and students of drama, educators, artists working in theatre, and the theatre-going public.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2757-4
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Kathleen Gallagher and David Booth
  4. I. Introduction

    • Emergent Conceptions in Theatre Pedagogy and Production
      (pp. 3-13)

      In 1888 Johan August Strindberg wrote the playMiss Julie. In its preface he bemoaned the death of theatre, of playwriting, and of theatre’s capacity to educate. Strindberg asserted:

      The theatre has always been a primary school for the young, the semieducated, and women, all of whom retain the humble faculty of being able to deceive themselves and let themselves be deceived – in other words, to accept the illusion, and react to the suggestion, of the author. Nowadays the primitive process of intuition is giving way to reflection, investigation and analysis, and I feel that the theatre, like religion,...

    • Towards an Understanding of Theatre for Education
      (pp. 14-22)

      I grew up as a radio child and a television teenager, with CBC radio plays, and then American television dramas, filling the house every night. The Goodyear Playhouse, the Philco Playhouse, Playhouse 90, with original scripts, professional actors, famous directors. John Drainie, Bette Davis, the Barrymores, Rod Steiger, James Dean were every-evening entertainers. I was entrapped by the live exchange of ideas wrapped in home-delivered theatre. Those days are gone; theatre changes as culture does.

      The first play I acted in was in eighth grade in St Thomas, Ontario. The centennial of this small town had resulted in a pageant...

  5. II. Theatre, the Arts, Pedagogy, and Performance

    • ‘I Will Tear You to Pieces’: The Classroom as Theatre
      (pp. 25-34)

      When I was eleven years old, I became Helen Keller. As I rehearsed the role for the amateur production, I felt I was, for the first time, vivid; the caul that seemed to always surround me slipped away while I explored this desperate, mythic character. I had been largely an invisible child with no opinions or even thoughts of my own; I lived by sensation. From that time I remember the purple of violets, the yellow of buttercups, and the cherry of Popsicles, suffocating. New England summer afternoons, dirty feet, and dark chocolate cake against deep green grass, these sensations...

    • The Monologue Project: Drama as a Form of Witnessing
      (pp. 35-55)

      In my work, I am carried by this powerful sense of drama and of education into the backcloth that is the Holocaust and beyond, to immigration stories and to the construction of identity, as we place ourselves, with deliberation, in relation to the other. Young people need to know that they themselves are the intersection of histories, memory space, and art-making. Teachers need to understand that they have the opportunity to construct a pedagogical architecture that leaves spaces for our students’ narratives.

      The shape of the memory-work I produce together with my students is designed to locate our own narratives...

    • The Professional Theatre and the Teaching of Drama in Ontario Universities
      (pp. 56-66)

      Fifty-three years ago, in an essay on ‘Drama and the University,’ Wilson Knight warned the Faculty of the University of Leeds, which he had joined two years earlier as reader of English literature, of the serious risks involved in establishing a university drama department, remarking that, unless its programs were correctly structured, such a department was likely to do more harm than good to the development of the art of drama. Its courses were bound to overwhelm with abstract knowledge the creative imagination of potential artists and would tacitly mislead students into thinking that, upon graduation, they could find a...

    • National Symposium on Arts Education: Opening Address, 1–2 July 2001
      (pp. 67-86)

      Teachers, Learners, Artists, Scientists, Enablers, Facilitators, Honoured Guests:

      I am so happy and I feel so fortunate to be able to share some thoughts and feelings with you for an hour or so over the next two days. Although I customarily require a lot of persuading to do anything at all nowadays – other than to listen to music, to daydream, and to write down some of those daydreams – I am sure that those who invited me to present this opening address would confirm that I leapt at the opportunity to speak to this important gathering of movers and...

  6. III. Critical Voices

    • The Poetics: A Play
      (pp. 89-99)

      Big city newspaper. Office of the editor-in-chief. With him, the arts editor. The arts reporter, outside the office, addresses the audience.

      Arts Reporter. There I was, stringer in the arts section of a Very Important Newspaper. We had a Dance Critic, a Book Critic, a Movie Critic, and a Drama Critic. And when these men were sick, I was called to fill in, to ‘string.’ It was a Tuesday morning in late fall. A handful of leaves threw themselves against my window. I looked up just in time to see the sun race behind a cloud, and this snowy owl...

    • Confessions of a Theatre Addict
      (pp. 100-105)

      My mother took my sister and me to the theatre one Saturday afternoon in November to seeOliver, which was playing the O’Keefe Centre, before it went to New York. It was 1962 and I was fourteen. It was cold and we wore galoshes, even though it wasn’t snowing. And we were late. We came in about ten minutes into the first song, ‘Food Glorious Food,’ and we clumped down the long aisle in the dark to our seats in GG (7th row) on the aisle. I wasn’t embarrassed about being late or disturbing anybody; I just remember walking down...

    • Inside Out: Notes on Theatre in a Tenderized, Tranquillized, ‘Mediatized’ Society
      (pp. 106-113)

      Theatre and drama should be unsettling, should make us ‘un-easy’ in the positive sense of the word, as should education. They should encourage dialectic and debate and not erase them through cosmetic manipulation. Too often theatre does the opposite, pandering to so-called ‘certainties’ and embedding unchallenged roles, boundaries, and thinking. In the classroom, drama and theatre offer space for the exploration of diversity. We have entered the Age of Mendacity where control systems, whether outright propaganda or misleading advertising and publicity, undermine the initiative to choose. Young people are especially vulnerable to such manipulative mechanisms. Theatre and drama risk becoming...

    • Improvisation and Risk: A Dialogue with Linda Griffiths
      (pp. 114-130)

      Kathleen. I want to ask you about your reaction to the title of our book and your initial thoughts when you received the letter about contributing, about being part of this book. And what is possible in this relationship between drama and education? I am talking about what is possible, in terms of both process and product, when, for instance, theatre conventions and improvisation become a part of how students construct their creative lives. Of course, given the political climate, and the current situation in education, where we are moving further and further away from anything which is exploratory, everything...

  7. IV. Culture, Community, and Theatre Practices

    • Seven Things about Cahoots Theatre Projects
      (pp. 133-143)

      The mandate of the company is to develop, produce, and promote new Canadian plays that reflect Canada’s cultural diversity. What exactly does that mean? I wondered. What does it mean to develop? What makes a play ‘new’? What is a play? What forms does ‘promotion’ take and what the hell is cultural diversity really? I’m not going to attempt to answer all of those questions here; I’ll simply focus on the notions of cultural diversity and reflection.

      Cultural Diversity. On the most obvious level, it seemed to me that we were talking about the reality that many of us experience...

    • Negotiating Drama Practices: Struggles in Racialized Relations of Theatre Production and Theatre Research
      (pp. 144-161)

      In this chapter I examine collaborative practices in two interconnected sites of drama activity: theatre production and theatre research. Through a particular focus on tensions in cross-cultural contexts, I explore the ways in which these sites of theatrical collaboration across social ‘difference,’ in particular racial difference, are negotiated through contradictory, uncertain, and conflicting social relationships. I focus on the racialized practices of theatre creators and researchers in processes of collaboration rather than on theatre texts or plays produced from collaborative artwork. My broad intent is to question ‘how’ we learn in drama, particularly across racial differences.

      In her work on...

    • Drama through the Eyes of Faith
      (pp. 162-172)

      The mention of drama education conjures up the image of a group of children or young people in a classroom engaged in the study of text, or better, acting in a scene of a play which they themselves have written. We tend to dismiss adult drama education, particularly that taking place outside the institutional framework. It is perceived as peripheral, even trivial, when set beside the serious work of child and youth learning, which is the basic business of the school, the college, or the university. I wish to address this strand of drama education in the context of the...

    • As the World Turns: The Changing Role of Popular Drama in International Development Education
      (pp. 173-181)

      The use of drama to impart new ideas and challenge old beliefs is increasingly popular in international development education. In many developing countries, live folk theatre has been a key tool for assessing social problems, raising awareness about issues, and mobilizing public support for change. This mode of theatre is necessarily participatory in nature, relying on a collective process of learning between community members.

      India, like many developing countries, has seen in recent years a mushrooming of community-based organizations, many of which have sought to use popular theatre as a tool for development education. Many such groups have sought to...

    • The Other Side of Alternative Theatre: An Interview with Sky Gilbert
      (pp. 182-188)

      Sky Gilbert, as artistic director, was the controversial force behind Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for eighteen years, a theatre he founded in Toronto dedicated to gay and new Canadian works. Its name is taken from the title of a poem by Jacques Prévert, which recounts the story of a theatre company’s struggles to pay the bills because it chooses to produce artistic instead of commercial works. Gilbert’s honesty, commitment, and belief in what he does have had a lasting impact on Canadian theatre. His work has enabled gay playwrights to ‘come out of the closet’ with pride and honesty....

  8. V. Theatre for and with Young Audiences

    • Theatre for Young Audiences and Grown-up Theatre: Two Solitudes
      (pp. 191-197)

      The following thoughts have been formulated on the basis of my experience as artistic director of Young People’s Theatre (1990–8), which was housed in a permanent facility in the heart of downtown Toronto. One of the first actions I took when I assumed the artistic directorship was to institute a ‘Pay What You Can’ performance for every production. Over two hundred seats were made available to members of the public, and this fluctuated in response to demand.

      A great deal of my development as a writer comes from my years working on plays for young people. Young audiences had...

    • Theatre for Young People: Does It Matter?
      (pp. 198-206)

      Desmond Davis, founder and artistic director for nine years of Carousel Players, one of Canada’s most successful children’s theatre companies, opens his bookTheatre for Young Peoplewith the following insight:

      It is no coincidence that the word for the main activity of childhood is the same as the word for what is done in theatre. Children play games and playwrights write plays. The artists who recreate plays for the delight of adults were called players long before it was called theatre – at least in our language. The exercise of the imagination is much the same in the child’s...

    • The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito: Lyrics to ‘Patty Cake’
      (pp. 207-210)

      Working with Tomson Highway is a little taste of heaven. Theatre heaven. Or, at least, it is what I, a young theatre person almost out of university, envision every actor’s dream gig to be like. He is an honest man with a brilliantly active mind, and he balances beautifully between professionalism/perfectionism and just plain old havin’ fun!

      Putting togetherMary Jane Mosquitowas therefore a breeze, a breeze with punch, that is! Tomson challenged me with a wonderful repertoire of music that explores many different styles, stretches my range some, and trips my tongue even more (Cree words and the...

    • The Land inside Coyote: Reconceptualizing Human Relationships to Place through Drama
      (pp. 211-228)

      Drama underlies my work as an artist, teacher, and scholar. Drama’s investigative actions and its storytelling conventions, such as plot, character, setting, and metaphor, facilitate the exploration of facts, ideas, and feelings in each of my forms of inquiry. Drama’s ability to inquire into a topic as well as touch a subject’s emotional heart make it pedagogically suitable for my study of human relationships to place. In this chapter I am interested in a specific aspect of place, namely, the natural world – the non-human world of plants, animals, rocks, sky, weather; in other words, the places and things that...

  9. VI. Creative Processes, Audience, and Form

    • The Significance of Theatre: A Commencement Address
      (pp. 231-238)

      Theatre: the origin of the word is the Greek verb ‘to behold,’ the simplest definition of which, in theOxford English Dictionary, is ‘to hold or keep in view, to watch; to regard or contemplate with the eyes; to look upon, look at.’ But this definition also includes more complex and meaningful human experiences: ‘to hold or contain by way of purport or signification, to signify, mean’ and ‘to regard (with the mind), have regard to, attend to, consider.’ When I was asked to speak at this convocation, Dr Thompson suggested I might address the significance of theatre in contemporary...

    • Education through Empathy: Using Laughter as a Way In
      (pp. 239-246)

      There are many historical examples that illustrate the essential connection between theatre and education. This chapter is about the experiences that led me to become a passionate believer in art that can’t help but illuminate.

      When I was in theatre school, I wanted to be an actor because I loved being on stage. It was simple. I loved surfing a real live moment in time with the audience, uniting in a communal experience. It was a nonintellectual, visceral passion. I had no intention of becoming a writer or someone who was motivated to (God forbid) ‘teach’ an audience anything.


    • Intellectual Passions, Feminist Commitments, and Divine Comedies: A Dialogue with Ann-Marie MacDonald
      (pp. 247-268)

      Kathleen. What did you think about contributing to a book calledHow Theatre Educates?

      Ann-Marie. I wonderedwhatis theatre, and howdoesit educate?

      Kathleen. The reason I ask this question, Ann-Marie, is because in conceiving this book, I was acutely aware of how theatre artists, and perhaps artists more generally, don’t necessarily consider what they do as educational, or even as having much to do with educating people.

      Ann-Marie. That’s true. I guess, my question to you is, What is the difference between theatre in education, versus drama and education? I am interested in knowing, from your point...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 269-274)
  11. References
    (pp. 275-282)