Theatre as Education
Hi there, my name is Sela and I am Anna Fioreintini’s newest Intern! I am studying in London this Spring, but I attend college in the United States at the College of St. Benedict located in Minnesota. I am studying English and Secondary Education, my future plans (though changing everyday), are to become a high school English teacher and direct high school theatre productions. I have been involved in theatre as an actor, stage manager, writer, director, and costumer. My blogs will reflect upon my experiences with theatre in these many capacities.
Welcome to the new blog series, “Theatre as…”. In this series, I will demonstrate the multiple ways theatre can be used as a tool for education, restorative practice, and simply, life. Throughout my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to experience theatre for entertainment and enjoyment, but also beyond the stage, as a means for change; those experiences are the ones I will be reflecting upon in my series.
The most powerful way I have seen theatre utilized is to educate. Theatre can be the most non-threatening way to completely slap the audience in the face with your point. My example comes from my experience in high school with one of the most influential people in my life, Sam Tanner.
During my sophomore year of high school, my English teacher, Sam Tanner, was working on his doctoral dissertation about whiteness, and how people come to terms with their individual whiteness. As part of his research and for our Spring play, some of his students were to research, write, and produce a play about whiteness.
Tackling this issue in a suburban school was complex. Not only did we as students, have to come to terms with our own feelings about race and whiteness, but we were expected to write, document, and research these experiences. The process was difficult, as the topic itself is extremely complex. Our script idea was to centralize around a town, infected with racism and white prejudice. However, the infection would be a literal one, an unnamed virus, which symbolized the issue of whiteness. Families in the town were infected with this virus, while some central characters remained immune. The play concentrated on how the virus spread ignorance and fear and ultimately provided solutions for peace and restorative justice.
The audience response to the play was widespread. We had local radio hosts in an uproar and an uncomfortable viewing audience. I admit, it is a lot to completely disfigure a certain reality before an audience’s eyes, to demand truth and transparency from them. But ultimately, during the Question and Answer segment, the response was positive. Theatre provided the medium to break down barriers that would have been difficult in typical conversation. Theatre is innocent enough to simply provoke thought or demand passionate responses. This was my first interaction with theatre as a means beyond entertainment, and towards a greater goal. It changed the way I saw theatre, as a vehicle for change. And I learned, evidently that change, begins with education