Here is the link to my Back to school post - https://www.presentdaymoms.com/honest-talk/getting-back-in-the-groove-for-school
Great article about the importance of Theatre. Original here Read more at https://ista.co.uk/news-item/why-theatre-matters-touched-by-the-whisperings-of-the-stars/#BiocxUYJ246M0B1x.99
By Jonothan Neelands, patron of ISTA
However big or small, rich or poor, every school has a theatre at its heart. A space that gathers us together as students, teachers and parents but also as citizens, as a living community. A space which encourages public participation in cultural activities that are as social, civic, even spiritual as they are part of the formal curriculum. These are spaces of assembly, prayer, sporting events, celebration, debate, invention and remembrance. They are all in one sense or another “theatres”; places of social communion and performance.
They are also spaces for the living art form of theatre – the most sociable art – to flourish as part of the life of the school. As part of its commitment to the role of the performing arts in a community as well as to the development of young people as effective, caring, thinking, socially engaged and globally-minded individuals. Developing the artistic skills and knowledge of actors, directors and designers also develops students’ capacities to be social actors making a difference on the worlds in which they are growing and must influence. Giving them the confidence, empathy and higher levels of social and emotional intelligence to be tomorrow’s leaders in whatever life they choose. Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice President of Facebook says this of her own drama education:
What does studying drama teach you? I learned dedication, the value of hard work and of approaching the task in hand with a clear purpose and full attention. I learned the ability to communicate with passion and confidence and to believe in myself. All necessary skills when working with people and looking to inspire others to get the best out of them – so important, whether you decide to be an actor, a businesswoman, a scientist or an engineer.
Every society and every culture has public spaces for theatre even though the form theatre takes will be different. Studying, experiencing and embodying these rich differences in tradition, style and purpose is one important way in which students come to experience other cultures through their characteristic forms of expression. There is a proud insistence on engaging with local and global performance traditions in ISTA schools, so that the great Western canon of historical and new works can be placed in a larger frame.
The arts, and particularly the performing arts, give us insights into how others express their humanity and uniqueness. In turn they provide us with the means to express who we are and who we are becoming. They are, both within schools and the wider society, a form of “soft power” that encourages international dialogue, respect for differences and a common concern for humanity. In a troubled world, the arts have the capacity to remind us that we are all humans struggling to share a vulnerable world together.
What the Nigerian poet Ben Okri says of poetry is as true of theatre and other arts:
Heaven knows we need poetry now more than ever. We need the awkward truth of poetry. In a world of contending guns, the argument of bombs and the madness of believing that only our side, our religion, our politics is right – we need a voice that speaks to the highest in us. We need the voice that speaks to our doubts, our fears and to all the unsuspected dimensions that make us both human and beings touched by the whisperings of the stars.
Archaeological discoveries reveal that the earliest Western theatres were created in the Demes or neighbourhoods of 6th and 5th century BC Athens. Like school theatres, they were local community spaces for performances, debates and other gatherings of public life. They are now understood to have been essential to the development of the Athenian model of democracy; theatre had a political as well as an artistic purpose. Theatre publicly questioned, agitated, provoked, entertained, mocked and proposed alternative ways of living together in freedom and equality. Good school theatre often continues this tradition, sometimes celebrating, sometimes disturbing, sometimes entertaining, sometimes edgy and uncomfortable. But always causing us to reflect on the world beyond the school gates and our place in it.
Theatre in schools has many dimensions and touches lives in different ways. But students of theatre benefit both from their own performances and an informed understanding and experience of a wide range of performance by others as well as from the rewards of the often-invisible processes of rehearsal, exploration, research and self-discovery. If theatre in schools is part of a long democratic tradition, then the making of theatre in schools must also reflect and teach democratic values and practices.
Good teachers of theatre know that trust, respect and close attention to the needs of their students are more effective pedagogical tools than coercion, fear and direct instruction.
Beyond performance the circle is the characteristic shape of a good drama class. It provides the illusion at least that all present are equal and equally entitled to speak, act, be heard, share their imaginings and sometimes their fears. The empty space in the middle of the circle is always full of potential for both artistic and social inter-action.
Research funded by the European Union shows that students of theatre and drama are more tolerant towards minorities and foreigners, more active citizens, more empathetic and more able to change their perspective. These are essential qualities for our times and they are also embedded of course in the IB values that may tend to be marginalised in some subjects but which are at the core of an education in theatre.
Learning in a drama class is always embodied, physical, intensely felt. The otherwise abstract concept of empathy – the willingness to see and experience the world as others live it – is made real through the active processes of researching and becoming characters. Inhabiting lives, situations and contexts that may be both strange and yet familiar at a human level. The capacity to empathise with and for others who may be different from ourselves, is a key democratic necessity and theatre both in performance and in rehearsal is the perfect opportunity for learning and practising it. Together.
A theatre performance can never be a solo activity. It is not like poetry, music or visual art in this respect. Its performances require audiences of course but also actors working in disciplined harmony, writers, directors, technologists etc. It is a socially made and witnessed art. The drama class lays the foundations for the artistic solidarity and social sensitivity needed for performance. It is here that a good theatre teacher lays down the basic principles of ensemble learning and living together. At its best the drama class will mirror the characteristics of the professional ensemble, described here by the RSC actor Geoffrey Streatfield:
Our ever growing trust enables us to experiment, improvise and rework on the floor with an astonishing freedom and confidence. This ensemble is a secure environment without ever being a comfort zone. All of us are continually challenging ourselves and being inspired by those around us to reach new levels in all aspects of our work.
As Nicola Mendelsohn reminded us earlier, the personal and ensemble skills that are developed through an education in drama and theatre are now highly prized both in the economy and in the wider society. She is VP of Facebook, an iconic digital-creative organisation in a rapidly expanding creative age. A new age with an insatiable appetite for young people who are creative, innovative and enterprising in all areas of the economy and in society. Well-taught theatre students create, invent, communicate well and understand how to contribute to a team.
These are all essential assets to the economy but also to the broader world. In addition theatre students are also often critical, argumentative, sometimes quirky and have strong emotional ties to each other and the world. Progress in global-relations, the environment, society and the economy requires human creativity and criticality, empathy and invention as much as new uses of technology that sustain the planet.
In any case we live in an age where young creative people are beginning to see the patterns and connections that interlink many of the world’s problems. As Shakespeare and dramatists from many cultures have demonstrated, theatre and literature help us to see and feel these connections at personal, social, international and epic levels. To hear the whispering of the stars. Making new connections between problems rather than seeing each in isolation will be crucial; theatre does this.
Theatre and other arts are essential to the creative age – both by critically and passionately “mirroring” through plays and performances, who we are and who we are becoming and for developing the artistic skills and mind-sets needed to transform the world.
Go now and sit in your school’s “theatre”. The creative age beckons! This is where the change begins, where there will be theatre to see, make, experience, create for these young people. This “theatre” will be both artistic and social in its purpose. It’s where young people will learn to be creative, to enjoy dialogue and to encourage creativity in others. It’s what theatre/s are for! It’s an empty space waiting to be filled.
This article was first publish in Scene which we publish three times a year and send to all our members. You can find out more about becoming an ISTA member here.
A great article shared to me by a wonderful MS PE teacher and coach.
Creating an Education-based Athletics and Performing Arts CultureBy Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald on November 07, 2017
Yes, I‘m one of those – a former athlete, coach, athletic director and for the past 25 years an administrator. When my first daughter was born, I immediately envisioned athletic glory and college scholarships. While club sports were not prevalent at the time, our daughter played field hockey, basketball and softball in recreational league programs.
Fast forward 13 years. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and I had turned my whistle in for a walkie-talkie and was an assistant principal. I called home to let my wife know that I would pick up our daughter from softball practice when I received the soul-crushing news. My daughter had informed her mother that she no longer wanted to try out for the middle school softball team. Instead, she wanted to be in the band and to try out for the spring musical. My dreams were crushed. I was furious. My time and money had been wasted. While I wanted to make her go to practice and explain to her coach why her next superstar pitcher had decided not to try out, cooler heads prevailed.
So, as I reflect upon the way I reacted to my daughter’s decision that day, I am ashamed of myself, but proud of her and her courage. Now don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed watching the marching band or attending a play. My school district prides itself on what we have labeled the four A’s: Academics, Arts, Athletics and Atmosphere. I just never envisioned myself sitting in the audience hoping that the band hit all the right notes or that everyone in the play remembered their lines. So, I can honestly say my perspective changed that afternoon. I always knew the importance of athletics to a school’s culture; now I would witness firsthand the impact of the performing arts.
Interestingly, the foundation for both programs can be found in elementary school. Athleticism is the basis for physical education class and encouraged during “recess,” while participation in the performing arts can be traced back to music class and the “recorder.”
From a democratic beginning, which not only encouraged students to participate, but expected it, students then move into the middle school or junior high school and there they were forced to make choices. At this level, students deal with the reality of natural ability and discover the commitment and countless hours of practice necessary to excel. They begin to learn of the selection process, as coaches, musical conductors or theatre directors choose their “team” and assign positions.
Ironically, at this time some students will start to see athletics or the performing arts as their lifeline or connection, giving them a purpose outside of the classroom and a reason to stay in school. For the few gifted students, talk of a scholarship will begin.
Today’s middle school has become the battleground for a student’s future and the key to the development of a successful district-wide athletic and performing arts program. Yet, middle school programs are neglected or in some cases are non-existent. Students perform with “hand-me-down” instruments or uniforms. These programs look and feel undervalued, and if cuts need to be made, these programs are sacrificed, forcing students to look elsewhere. Sure, even without a feeder program, every few years a high school will excel in a sport or in the arts; however, these are fleeting moments and not sustainable.
The key to developing and sustaining successful programs is found in the ability of the administrator to practice the art of compromise. The coaches and band director must understand that to work together they must be willing to do what is in the best interest of the student. This is done by providing students with broad opportunities through extracurricular activities or cocurricular activities and by allowing for an exploration without bias.
Coaches, teachers and parents must be taught to compromise when a middle school student is interested in participating in the performing arts and athletics at the same time. This makes hiring the right people for the jobs essential. The wrong person will kill a program and damage a school culture.
The selection of middle school coaches, music teachers, art teachers and theatre coaches is as important as selecting their counterparts at the high school. These individuals must understand their roles and understand that communication and flexibility are the expectations. All too often, middle school positions are used as a training ground for coaches before they move on to the “big time.” The same can even be said for the conductor or director.
The administration must be cognizant of all these issues and must ensure that students are encouraged to pursue their interests, but must also be directed to find the area in which they excel. However, it must be made clear that student growth and development is the purpose of the middle school program, and if a choice must be made, students along with their parents must be the ones to make it.
Sure, there is a cost for these programs at both the district and the school levels. Salaries, equipment, instruments, music and playing fields are all a necessity; and while it may be impossible to provide everything immediately, a plan must be created that demonstrates to everyone that the district is making a serious commitment to both programs. When this commitment is made, students, the school, the district and the community all benefit.
When students are given the opportunity to develop an appreciation for these programs in middle school, they enter high school better able to make choices. Of course, when strong programs have been developed, there are those occasions when a choice is not necessary and a wrestler performs with the concert band, a basketball player sings with the chorus or a championship tennis player appears on stage performing Shakespeare. You may even find a football team dressed as gangsters performing in “Guys and Dolls” bringing the house down!
These things will not happen unless everyone buys into a culture that believes in and supports both athletics and the performing arts. So, while I don’t advocate having my type of eye-opening experience, I do believe that superintendents need to wake up to the importance of middle school programs in shaping their athletics and performing arts programs.
I am rereading some of the old textbooks to refresh and came across The Mime Book. It is a good revision of the basic skills for me. Mime has always been one of my favourite genres. It was my lead into physical theatre and it wasn't until I was a adult that my leanings to the physical was all to do with my hearing loss. I still love it today and for so many more reasons. I have been teaching it to my grade 6s who loved it. Especially the boys. I loved seeing them so engaged but also as we had Parent teacher conferences, hearing from parents whose children had been talking about Mime at home and showing them some of the basics such as the wall, the rope and climbing a ladder. I also love the fact that it transcends culture and language. It warms my heart.
The Mime Book's Chapters include:
Lucian(2nd Century AD) summarises why the study of Mime is still important - " This man, whose gestures are a universal language, Can make himself understood by any nation."
Lovely conservation about Dance and theatre and everything inbetween. Lerman considers the different ways we watch theatre and dance, and examine where we find strength and resonance as art-makers and art-watchers.
I just finished reading this book which I found throughly engaging. One thing that I found it really useful for way the general overview of a variety of practitioners. It was interesting about the movement away from the term " physical theatre" with the referral to the idea that all theatre is physical. I enjoyed the first 3 chapters. It is a good reference book as well as an interesting read.
Just started another free on line course about Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, University of Birmingham and Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust. Again a really well organised course. It is over four weeks and I am into week three. A lot of good resources and information.
Just finished an excellent on line course run through the University of Leeds and Future Learn on Meyerhold's Biomechanics. A 3 weeks course - which is free and really well constructed.
So I have just signed up for a free online course - just one the first unit - excellent stuff. So I am examining Exploring play - which I think is vital for Drama.
Drama/Theatre/Dance teacher for 26 years; Currently teaching at International School Manila.
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