Workshop: Experiencing Drama and Theatre

Developing a space for communication with children & young people
1. Preface

The following workshop was developed in Denmark. Slingsby has been given approval to translate and provide these materials to English speaking audiences. We are indebted to Louise Ejgood Hansen, Randers EgnsTeater and Teatercentrum for sharing this workshop. Photo credit to Christian Brandt.

This workshop aims to provide you, the teachers, with the tools to run Experiencing Drama and Theatre at your own school. We have tested and adjusted the concept and have arrived at something which we believe is extremely valuable. We have endeavoured to accurately and correctly describe all steps and have also briefly explained the basic ideas behind Experiencing Drama and Theatre. We realise that different kitchens produce different results albeit working  from the same  recipe. Children, theatre plays, the physical  environment and the teachers are different. Nevertheless, we feel that the fundamental idea  that a dramatic experience can  be appreciated and expressed with the help of Experiencing Drama and Theatre can be brought  into any classroom.

2. What is it that children experience when they experience drama and theatre?

Experiencing Drama and Theatre aims to accommodate the full range of drama and theatre experiences. Most theatre performances consist of subject material that can be adapted in a variety of ways. But a drama and theatre experience  is more than just the subject material -­‐ maybe that is not even the primary element. It is also a social experience and a perception experience. You enter the theatre, find your seat and the performance starts. During the performance situations, characters and stories are created through lighting, script, sound and movement.

With Experiencing Drama and Theatre the artistic experience is dealt with afterwards. Exactly because appreciating art is not something that simply happens, it is also something that you can learn. 

In Experiencing Drama and Theatre we ask the students: What was your main experience? And that is how we find out that the sound equipment or the best friend giggling in the row behind you are important. 

This does not diminish the experience of the performance itself; on the contrary it proves that the children have a very complex appreciation of the theatre experience. They easily jump between seeing the actors and seeing the characters, and  they notice and render very precise, perceived details of e.g. lighting and costumes. 

The richness of these experiences is worth holding on to -­‐ and that is what we do with Experiencing Drama and Theatre.

3. Download workshop model

Below you can download the model including warm up, introduction, time table and exercises for grades 0-4th and 5th to 10th

Download Experiencing Drama and Theatre here

4. Developing a space for communication with appreciative input

In order to give children and young people an opportunity to put into words their own perceptions, feelings and thoughts, it is essential that both students and teachers have appreciative input to Experiencing drama and Theatre. Appreciation means to watch, listen and hear the other person:

  • To see  the other person as a competent person who wants to and is able to contribute with something constructive
  • That what means something to another person is not necessarily the same as that which means something to yourself
  • To set aside own opinions, attitudes and values for a while, thereby creating space and acceptance of other opinions.
  • Spoken statements can be explored by asking supplementary questions, thereby giving the stories about the theatre experiences more details and increasing value.
  • In an appreciative flow there is no right or wrong answer. All answers contribute to making the stories about the theatre experience more complex and composite.
5. Authentic questions

Authentic questions may keep your attention focused on the other person to improve your understanding of what the other person understands, what the other person experiences, thinks and feels.

  • Authentic questions: 
  • Is a question for which you have no answer until you have asked the other perso
  • Is based on the experiences and perception of the person asked. As the saying goes: You are an expert of your own feelings, perceptions and experiences.
  • Are open and curious.
  • Questions may be something like "Could you give a bit more details?" or "What does it mean when you say ...?
    6. Children and young people as an audience

    Children and Young People are competent as an audience. From their early childhood children rely on an aesthetic mode of understanding, which they  encounter in art as well. The tangible and the perceived play a crucial role in visual art as well as in plays. At school the primary focus is on the students  learning to have a conceptual and abstract attitude to the world. That is important, however, by means of a sensual input, art is able to create a different  space where the answers are not given and there are good opportunities for feeling, understanding and thinking. From that perspective, artistic experiences are essential for modern development, which concerns independent reflection and the ability to have a creative and collaborative attitude to  the world.      

    7. Bakcground and literature

    Experiencing Drama and Theatre was developed by Postdoc. ph.d. Louise Ejgood Hansen, Aarhus University, Tine Eibye, Souschef/drama teacher at  Randers EgnsTeater, cand.mag. Pernille Welent Sørensen, Consultant Teatercentrum and student assistant Marie Gorm Konradsen. Along the way eight classes from Randers have assisted us by testing and adjusting the concept. The project received support from The City of Randers, Region  Midtjylland, Scenekunstnerværket in Region  Midtjylland,Teatercentrum and Aarhus University.   

    For the development of Experiencing Drama and Theatre we gained inspiration from, among others:

    Matthew Reason: Young Audiences, Trentham Books, 2010 (analysis of children's experiences with theatre). 

    Flemming Mouritzen: Legekultur: essays om børnekultur, leg og fortælling. Odense Universitetsforlag, 1996 as well as Beth Juncker: Om processen: det æstetiske betydning i børns kultur. Riswenw Akidrwe, 2006 (About child culture and children's understanding of aesthetics). 

    Maja Loua Haslebo and Danielle Bjerre Lyndgaard: Anerkendende ledelse. Dansk Psykologisk Forlag, 2010. (about appreciative conversation). 

    Olga Dysthe: Det flerstemmige klasserum, Klim, 1977 (about authentisk questions)

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