Educational theatre

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Educational theatre is a general term that refers broadly to the various educational and pedagogical uses of drama, theatre and performance.

There have been many forms of this, from different schools of thought, and various names and a large number of approaches resort under this category of drama and theatre.

See also Edutainment

Some of the more important found in South Africa are:

Educational Drama

Drama in Education (DIE)

Drama in Education (or Drama-in-Education, acronym DIE) is the name usually given to the use of drama techniques in the school curriculum, both as a teaching method for various subjects and a subject in itself. It uses various dramatic elements, and acting out as a means of teaching. In many Secondary schools drama is now a separate department, also in South Africa.

In some Primary schools it is used as a method to teach a number of subjects.

In the USA this also referred to as Creative Dramatics (See the writings of Nelly McCaslin for example)

The use of this method was strongly propagated in South Africa in the 1970s-1980s, especially through an association called The South African Association for Drama and Youth Theatre (SAADYT), founded by Esther van Ryswyk. SAADYT brought various specialists out to present workshops (e.g. Dorothy Heathcote, John O'Toole, John Norman, )

South African specialists included Esther van Ryswyk, Paddy Terry, Gay Morris, Lynn Dalrymple,

The society also published The SAADYT Newsletter, later the SAADYT Journal for a while (founded and edited initially by Temple Hauptfleisch).

The movement to establish DIE in schools however met fierce resistance from the Educational authorities in the country under the Apartheid government, who saw the techniques involved as undisciplined and dangerously political.

Theatre in Education (TIE)

Theatre in Education (or Theatre-in-Education, acronym TIE) is a specific yet broad term used to refer to any service approach to the use of theatre and drama techniques in educational settings, e.g. here a a team of professionally trained and experienced actor/teachers present relevant material in schools. This often involves more than one visit and the programmes are devised and researched by the team/teachers. It is work intended as an educational aid, providing resources and stimulus for both teachers and pupils. Techniques may include anything from total participation sessions to a formal performance and discussion. Theatre have been a number of Theatre in Education companies over the years, some inv olved in it full-time, others part-time.

In South Africa TIE was, like DIE, strongly supported by SAADYT and the international association ASSITEJ.

This approach often has a strong left-wing or didactic approach to the subject matter, and in South Africa was at a time closely allied to the more political and socially involved approaches championed by such radical theorists as Bertolt Brecht's (e.g. in his "lehrstücke") and Augusto Boal (and his theory of "Theatre of the Oppressed" - see below). This aspect often led to clashes with the authorities and censorship system during the Apartheid era. in South Africa the companies often had they cannot be considered as mere tools of the education system. Rather, they act as outside questioners, looking at ideas and values in society.

Theatre as social intervention

Theatre for Development

Pedagogical theatre

In its purest form, a term related to Paulo Freire’s notion of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed[1], and the related theories and techniques (such as the notion of "conscientization") for a Theatre of the Oppressed by his colleague Augusto Boal (see below).

The term has been used a little more freely in South Africa, as something related to all forms of theatre utilized for educational and developmental purposes - similarly to Educational theatre and Theatre for Development. Hence perhaps the intense political opposition to it in the "Struggle" years (1970s-1980s).

Paolo Freire and The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Paolo Freire (1921–1997)[2] was a Brazilian educator and philosopher, a leading advocate of what is known as "critical pedagogy". His most influential work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, is one of the core texts of the critical pedagogy movement.

He had a great influence on literacy programmes across the world, and had a major influence on his compatriot, Augusto Boal.

Augusto Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed

Closely associated with the work and theories of cultural activist Paolo Freire, Augusto Boal (1931-2009)[3] was a South American revolutionary figure who has been of cardinal importance in South African theatre and society. In particular his work on conscientization through theatre, and his ideas for the utilization of theatre for socio-political purposes have been enormously influential in the shaping of the protest theatre movement of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the more socially conscious community work of the 1990s. The English version of his first, polemical book (Theatre of the Oppressed -1979) in particular influenced many local theatre practitioners and theorists during the cultural struggle, while his later handbook (Games for Actors and Non-Actors - 1992), became an important tool in the post-apartheid period.

Drama, Theatre and Health

Theatre and general health issues

There are a number of health programmes that have employed such approaches, including :

An early example was a developmental theatre project undertaken under the auspices of the Ford Foundation in rural Transkei and Zululand (now Kwa-Zulu) by Barney Simon and black nurses in 1973. [See Simon, 1974, Kruger 1999], *

Heart to Heart by The Storyteller Group, a workshop based project utilizing role-play and the theatrical and conscientizing techniques pioneered by Boal and others to develop a rural love story which can explore social and health issues. The project also produced two published texts in the form of graphic romances. Developed with school children by Patricia Watson of the Storyteller Group and a researchers over an extended period from 1991-1996, with the two comics or graphic texts (Dream Love , developed 1991 and True Love, developed 1993) being published in 1994 (revised 1996) by The Storyteller Group. *

Theatre and AIDS awareness

Drama, theatre and performance have, since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, been central to awareness raising about the scourge on the African continent, and in South Africa. There have been and still are many projects using variations of performance driven interventionist techniques in the country.

Among them have been:

Clive Evian, a doctor specializing in community medicine and head of the AIDS prevention programme of the Wits Rural Facility in the Mhala Mhala district, along with the Progressive Primary Care Network, developed a training “play” for nurses and other health care workers to alter their attitudes and approaches to patients. [Kruger, 1999, p207] *

The Johannesburg City Health Department’s AIDS Prevention Programme has since the late 1980’s utilized the expertise of the Market Lab and FUBA in their programme, to perform skits to promote caution about multiple sex partners, etc. .

Puppets Against Aids was a programme run by Gary Friedman and AREPP

DramAidE was a successful national project, originally founded and run by Lynn Dalrymple in 198* at the University of Zululand,

An immensely controversial example was Sarafina II by Mbongeni Ngema. Touted as a hugely funded AIDS-awareness play, it was written under contract for the Department of Health. First produced at The Natal Playhouse in Durban in 199*. Eventually the production was stopped as a result of public outcry, the opposition of AIDS-activists and the investigations by the Heath Commission into financial irregularities into the allocation of and management of the R14 million assigned to Ngema and his company, Committed Artists for the play.

Broken Dreams by Zakes Mda and the Market Lab. An AIDS prevention performance which aims at dramatising the consequences of sexual abuse for children. Performed by five professional actors and the children at the several hundred schools they visited, assisted on site by professional and lay community counsellors, the play allows for the audience members to articulate and confront their own experiences. Set up in 1995.*

The University of Stellenbosch founded the Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management[4] in 2000. In 2004 they appointed the former Broadway singer and actor, Mr. Jimmie Earl Perry[5], as Director of Educational Theatre and Creative Arts for the Centre, to use drama, theatre and performance techniques to promote awareness among the youth and seek to minimize new HIV infections among them.


Loren Kruger, 1999, pp. 207

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