Journal Entry from October 27, 2014 for Theatre Methods
Lazarus (2012) describes a model of Comprehensive Theatre Education. I strive to create this model in my classroom. I strive to have all students experience all aspects of theatre education. It is through the common experience of acting that I have each of my students also act, direct, design, manage, and research their productions. I also integrate other subjects into my classroom; most recently I have had collaborations with English (in the study of Shakespeare), Art (in the creation of puppets for puppet theatre), Physical Education/Health (in improvisation with Health Topics), and in Music (with creating sound scores for the annual school show). I have Comprehensive Arts Education program. The challenge is, of course, finding the curricular time to accomplish all the goals of a comprehensive program.
Comprehensive Arts Education is defined by three central ideas: a holistic arts education, an interdisciplinary education, and an integrated program. Really, this encapsulates the idea that theatre is every subject. I have told my students for years that they must be scholars if they want to be great actors. It is only through an understanding of academic knowledge of multiple fields that they can bring life to a wide range of characters.
What does this mean for the teacher of theatre arts? Does this mean that I must be an expert in every subject? I do not believe that is the case. While I believe I am well versed in a basic liberal arts education, there are many points in my education that are lackluster. These are parts that would need to be buffed and shined if I were to take on a play that involved large amounts of science or math. What is important is that I have, and I can give my students, the ability to research the information that they need and the passion for theatre that will drive them through that research. Of course, when examining the interdisciplinary aspects of my program, I am well advised to bring other teachers into the equation. There is only benefit to be gained with multiple teaching perspectives. When I do so, there is the potential for these outside teachers to absorb parts of theatre and integrate it into their classes.
Beyond a practical knowledge of multiple subjects, the theatre teacher must be experienced in the multiple fields of theatre: Researcher, Playwright, Director, Designer, Technician, Actor, Audience, and Critic (Lazarus, 2012). While acting may be the only aspect that is pure to the form, every other aspect informs the study of acting and these aspects are historically intertwined. Many of the Discipline Based Theatre Education Categories, figure 4.2 (Lazarus, 2012) are ones that I use in the classroom. I utilize the audience, students not performing, as critics. In turn their acting skills are sharpened because they have the opportunity to use the discipline specific vocabulary and assess students on the topical skills of the presentation. I require students to act at every grade level; this common strain serves as a touchstone to every other study in class. One third of all my students serve as directors for the annual school production (over the course of three years); these same students serve as technicians. I utilize actors as designers and I have an entire 10-week unit for playwriting. Every aspect requires research. By definition, I have a drama program that encompasses the multiple aspects of theatre.
What could be…
I could find avenues for all students to work as technicians; I may be able to find ways for every student to direct. However, these are roles that not every student wants to fill and if I had every student work as a director and a technician, it would take away from the acting opportunities – which is a much more important common thread. I believe the proportions of directors and technicians in my classes’ gives each student ample opportunities to serve in these functions if they want to. I do not have students do much research. It is currently a liminal aspect of my theatre program. There are so many other aspects that I want to highlight that I have not had ample opportunities to integrate research to the degree of creating dramaturgy. Indeed, the solution may lie in increased interdisciplinary work
In my eighth grade, with the Shakespeare unit, we work with interdisciplinary skills. Students study the play in English; they look at the themes and the plot structure; they examine the text as they would examine a novel. In my classes, students follow the interdisciplinary model that Lazarus (2012) highlights. This was a model that organically evolved in my class. I later found the graphic and recognized the similarities.
What makes this so remarkable is that it reads like an English Language Arts (ELA) unit plan. Even the stage of production would fit into the standards or oral communications. An ELA teacher may not be able to get away with a heavy emphasis on acting, but every other aspect would inform the unit heavily.
What ought to be…
What ought to be, possibly, is what I am already building. I appreciate working in a paradigm that demands the participation of every student across the disciplines of theatre. Not only does it expose the multitude of potential skills that theatre arts has to offer but also it highlights the opportunity for every student to succeed. I appreciate the model of Learning through Methods of Inquiry (Lazarus, 2012).
With these four categories, Aesthetics, Criticism, History, and Production, I could develop a palpable framework for my curriculum. As I look for ways to increase the organization and student differentiation, these four categories could serve as either a menu organizer for student lessons or a theory of learning organizer for lesson plans.
Lazarus, J. (2012). Signs of Change New Directions in Theatre Education: Revised and Amplified Edition. Bristol: Intellect.