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I really appreciate Playscripts and their work toward creating better theater and theater experiences for all. Jay Muldoon Theater Teacher, Fairfield, OH
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8 Teachers on the Benefits of Theatre Education

Over the years, we’ve had the chance to speak with numerous educators, picking their brains about the art of teaching theatre. One question we love to ask is how they feel students benefit from their involvement in theatre—after all, no one can witness the transformational power of theatre firsthand quite like a teacher. Here are some of their answers.

I have found that theatre brings out the best in kids—that they will say to me, “I’d really like to do the musical, but I can’t sing (or dance or acted before.)” Well, let me tell you! I have taught the least talented kids to become the best of their abilities and seeing their faces just glow with their achievements is phenomenal. They also learn how to work together, become responsible, and expand on their experiences past what they would normally do in high school life.

—Deborah Carlson, Columbia Central High School

IMG_7936While I believed in the magic of theatre, I had the opportunity to see its full glory while doing peace work in Northern Ireland. My husband, Northern Irish Poet Adrian Rice, and I had been doing cross-community work across the North, and had worked with students of all ages and abilities up to old-age pensioners. We were working in what was called a “special school.” A particular student was in a wheelchair, and not very responsive. Her teacher had noted that Orla wouldn’t be able to participate much in my project. We did thematic work, and the chosen theme was friendship. I storyboarded a music video to go along with Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and used the student, regardless of the naysay. I had a very eager Down syndrome student act with Orla. And once we started, and I noticed that Orla probably wasn’t getting anything from it, I started to slightly doubt its worth. We invited parents in for tea and toast and to watch the video. We gathered around a TV on a cart, and pushed play. Once we got to Orla’s part, for the first time ever, she started verbalizing and moving! She had recognized herself! What a beautiful surprise. What an amazing gift theatre gave us. From that experience, I know to trust the healing powers of the arts. The Tractor Shed Theatre takes pride in all the continued civic engagement work, knowing that it isn’t shocking what the arts can do, but it is shocking how little they are valued in our school systems.

—Molly Rice, St. Stephens High School

Theater can change the world! Even if my students don’t pursue the performing arts as a career, they will always be able to carry the confidence, compassion and team work skills that theater teaches into any career.

—Juliette Beck, Public Academy for Performing Arts

Well, at present, we don’t offer theater classes—which I’d really like to bring back to the arts curriculum—but working on productions changes kids profoundly. My daughter has said that she would work on shows even if they were never performed. This is profound because it really doesn’t make sense on paper—you work for MONTHS on something that only gets performed a few nights. It isn’t like a sports team in which you play a whole bunch of games all season. It has to be about the process. Obviously, any onstage experience helps kids become more confident and self-assured in being in front of groups, which they have to do all the time in classroom and many future business settings. It also benefits kids, I think, by giving them a great appreciation for one another. Actors really learn to appreciate the craft and hard work of those supporting them through building sets, props, costumes, lighting and sound, etc. etc. Theater is the only art form in which so many skills and different personalities all do their parts to assemble this complex piece of collaborative art form. Everyone involved gets to work in their area of strength to collaborate to the whole. There is nothing else like it, and kids feel this when they pull off a great performance.

—Steven Slaughter, Rosslyn Academy

The ability to stand before an audience and effectively communicate is a life skill. I see students grow more confident with every opportunity they have to perform. It is thrilling to be a part of this!

—Gay Brasher, Leland High School

img_1090Students benefit greatly from theater because it connects all of the curriculum into one class. They benefit from my classroom because we grow students through every project. Students benefit from objective drive theater lessons that connect all areas of subjects taught in the school setting. Teachers who teach theater are great at explaining content in an artistic and creative way. Part of the national standards that benefit the involvement of theatrical productions include creating, conceiving, and developing new artistic works, responding, understanding, and evaluating how the arts convey meaning, connecting the work to your own life, and performing artistic ideas through interpretation and presentation. The benefits include using the brain and the body to make art and connecting the link that join both together. Students envision/conceptualize stories and share those stories. By being involved students are able to generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work, organize and develop character development, do plot summaries, and select, analyze, and interpret artistic works. Cornerstones are used as benchmarks to see that students have learned and grown in the production. Doing productions help improve reading skills and the ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. Students are able to use higher order thinking skills to be better critical thinkers.

—David Boone, White Station High School

High School students continue that journey of exploring modes of expression. They can tackle scenes, monologues and character in deeper and more sophisticated ways. They can explore more complex topics as a company and a cast that can be a tremendous gift to their school. And doing a production? I cannot think of a more complicated and more creative endeavor. A student who participates in theater will be a better performer or theater artist, but they will also be a better doctor, lawyer, teacher, business person, contractor, engineer, etc.

—Aidan O’Hara, Weston Middle School

Any theater production links with just about any curricular area you can name. Every piece touches on Language Arts (how is the dialogue put together?), on history (what was happening in the world when the plot begins or when the author was alive?), on STEM subjects (design a set, understand colors in lighting, measure sight lines . . .), and on global awareness (explore the cultures of the characters, figure out how to make a zero-carbon-footprint production). Live theater works as the intersection of every subject we teach in schools and quite a few we don’t. The value of participating in live theater (by creating it or by watching it) is unmatched because theater, at its core, is an attempt to articulate what it means to be a human being.

—Danielle Filas, Village Academy

 

 

4 responses to “8 Teachers on the Benefits of Theatre Education”

  1. Charlene Pugh says:

    I teach elementary school and want some help in how to start and run an after school theatre group. I was a theatre major in college, but I want to know from teachers how they have worked with elementary students and what kinds of shows work best.

    • Playscripts Inc. Playscripts Inc. says:

      Hi Charles, we suggest taking a look at our plays for elementary schools. You can sort by popularity, and view production histories and script samples for each play on our website. You may also want to visit EdTA’s (Educational Theatre Association) community forum. It’s a great resource for teachers. Best of luck!

  2. Terri New says:

    Thank you so much for this! I could not agree more I have seen over and over the impact of theater arts on children’s lives and it’s so nice to read it from the professionals who see the impact!

  3. jresquival says:

    That’s a good point Juliette Beck made about theater developing team work. Having to rely on a group of performers for a show seems like it would really strengthen team work. I was a lead in my elementary musical and it was a blast.

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