''No one teaches us more than do plays and players through verisimilitude'
Drama is a metaphor for life; a metaphor whose process is universal.
From the beginning of our lives we learn by watching, perceiving and reading the actions' of others as instructions in life; sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Within a drama lesson, this process is used as students' vernacular knowledge is made explicit, challenged and developed within a creative frame and a supportive environment. Students are asked to exercise their opinions and develop them.
Drama is a social activity; lessons demand that students work together, communicate well, co operate creatively and present themselves to a given audience. The repeated social engagement fosters support for each other, understanding of each other and confidence in engaging with others; it develops students' social skills. The use of different tones, volumes and vocabulary needed in different scenarios is explored and practiced. Students' communication skills are actively developed.
Drama offers indirect experience as an actor or a spectator in a spontaneous make-believe and, therefore, safe world. Social roles and ideas can be explored within the safety of a 'mask': students' sense of self and their society is developed through in-role action as well as discussions, which help students' and their schools' to develop values in their communities, such as support, respect, understanding and empathy.
Drama helps students develop an awareness of their own emotions and those of others, it fosters empathy. Both as an art form and a process, theatre and drama offer students an opportunity to dissect emotional responses to situations in a safe, imaginary context and to understand others' actions. It can help students at a difficult personal time to understand and engage in the world around them at a deeper level.
The experience of a drama lesson offers students the chance to be something 'other' and be somewhere 'else' for a while; whether they are simply teenagers or have additional burdens such as caring responsibilities or special needs, being in role can offer young people a perspective outside of this chaos and a chance to see their world with fresh eyes.
Drama expands students’ horizons beyond their own contexts: drama offers a chance to explore a chosen theme, issue or idea through stories, dramatic forms and reflective discussions. Freed from paper bound thinking, students' creativity and intelligence is actively engaged and developed. The whole student is engaged in the academic study of a play in action or the rigorous interrogation of an idea through improvisation. Reflections on their experience in role reflect a higher level of engagement and immediacy with the chosen play, issue, theme or idea.
Theatre is a craft, a cultural jewel in our national crown. Our actors, directors and writers are renowned internationally. To engage in drama is to engage with one of our greatest national art forms, a craft which has been handed down from generation to generation. There is something of sport in watching those who assume the skills involved in creating a performance. In watching their deftness, we come to an appreciation of the detail and colour of performance. We have a responsibility to put our students in touch with this art form as both a spectator and a participant, to ensure its survival through appreciation. The industry of theatre must be sustained through education, just as engineering must. A society without art is no society.
Drama empowers students to disseminate the biases of visual/auditory pieces: media, radio, pod casts, films and television are the prevailing methods of engaging in social entertainment, especially with the advent of social media. Just as students' literacy must be developed with the written word, so it must be developed with the spoken/recorded word. Students need to develop the skills to disseminate the biases involved in visual and auditory presentations.
Drama is a vital, powerful, immediate, relevant and national art form as well as a vital, powerful, immediate, relevant and national educational tool and qualification. It deserves its place in the curriculum through the value that it adds to the students who peruse it. It shows universities and employers that students are able to communicate, co-operate, create, socialise, empathise and rationalise within the world and that as an individual they are confident, social, creative and understanding. We need this in society, so we have to foster it in schools.
Man cannot live by bread alone.
Long Live DRAMA!