Forum on Educational Theatre Preview

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Paper: A Wealth of Knowing

In celebration of fifty years of leadership and artist praxis, we take this opportunity to reflect on how that period of time has deepened our own understanding of the ways in which drama works whether in a classroom, studio, university setting or community hall. In so doing, we address a number of the questions that were posed as guides to this submission.

As the lens for this retrospective, we use a children’s picture book, Josepha (McGugan, 1994) “ past fourteen and trying to learn in primary row.” It is a story about an immigrant boy, friend to the younger narrator, who chooses to leave school to work for “a dollah a day” so that he can help support his impoverished family. Josepha “springs like a ram into the cart alongside his brother,” despite the impassioned pleas of a teacher who sees his potential: “It is nineteen hundred. Nineteen hundred, Josepha. A fresh century in your chosen land. You are quick and bright and cunning. Oh, the wealth of knowing you could reap.”

Josepha holds within its apparent simplicity the “novelty, surprise and teaching that connects with students’ past experiences and personal interests … low in threat and high in challenge” (Willis, 2008: 427). But more than that, it serves us as a metaphor for the wealth of knowing in our own discipline that we have come to acknowledge and appreciate over the past fifty years as central to artistry and pedagogy. And for today’s purpose, we use the story to illustrate five advances in our practice:

 

  1. The importance of distancing as a mediator of personal investment that provides protection into emotion (Eriksson, 2011; Heathcote, 1976).
  2. The power of story and narrative to shape our emotional and ethical realities (Nussbaum, 2003, Turner, 1998).
  3. The significance of our art form’s subjunctive mood to reveal the complexity and contingent nature of our world (Sennett, 2012, Kahneman, 2011).
  4. The contribution of Howard Gardner’s (1983) theory of Multiple Intelligences to an understanding of curriculum as interpersonal, intrapersonal, holistic and processual (Doll, 2008).
  5. The confirmation of the old adage that “drama teaches empathy” but how it does so and what is required in that teaching is now more apparent. (Levy, 1997; Miller & Saxton, 2015).

We are living in a time when there is a famine in quality conversation (Krznaric, 2014); face to face communication (Turkle, 2015) has become two-dimensional, and knowledge is now subject to “sensitivity alerts” (Jarvie, 2014). Such developments confirm the critical need for drama education to provide the metaphoric place where we may call into question our assumptions: the safe space in which to embrace the ambiguities that may disrupt and disturb, thereby shifting our understanding of who we are as we move from comfort to newness. A richer awareness of how drama works allied to current brain research reinforces Bolton’s (1984) recognition of the power of embodied narrative when he argued for placing drama at the center of the curriculum.

Carole Miller and Juliana Saxton are both emeriti professors at the University of Victoria, holding adjunct professorships in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and adjunct appointments at the University of Sydney, Australia. Each is the recipient of an Excellence in Teaching award. Together they chaired the 2nd International Drama in Education Research Institute 1997, were responsible for the Academic Program for the 5th World Congress of IDEA 2004 and served as the Reflective Keynote speakers for IDEA 2007 in Hong Kong. Their collaborative research is primarily situated in pre-service teacher education with a focus on inquiry-based instruction, applied theatre and the relationship of brain research to theatre practice. Their award-winning book, Into the Story: Language in Action through Drama (2004 Heinemann) will be followed in 2016 by Into the Story 2: More Stories! More Drama! (Intellect, UK/ University of Chicago Press).