Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
BERTOLT BRECHT, attributed, Decade of Protest
Theatre Arts in schools is absolutely integral to the well-rounded development of the adolescent at both the academic and personal level.
Theatre is an art-form that empowers individuals. It teaches analysis of text in a way that cannot be learnt in an English class, but would certainly aid the student in such a class. It teaches students to analyze objectives and motivations, which is extremely useful in both academic and ‘real life’ situations. It teaches students to understand a challenge from multiple perspectives and reinforces the notion that nothing is impossible.
“Studies indicate that not only do the performance of a story and a number of other drama activities in the classroom contribute to a student’s understanding of the work performed, but these experiences also help them to develop a better understanding of other works and of language and expression in general.”(1) Students who study drama will have a better understanding of literature, than students who do not. This will manifest itself physically as improved scores/grades within English classes.
Along with this, both Theatre and Theatre History teaches students about other cultures and time periods in ways that an English class would be unable to cover. They aid students’ understandings of universal themes, especially. Theatre gives students the skills they need to accurately research a text and actively apply that research in a way that reinforces the information, while also encouraging synthesis of common knowledge and previous lessons. Students may learn certain phrases or gestures that are native to a specific time or culture, that they otherwise might have never known.
Theatre teaches students things that sports also cover; things such as teamwork and collaboration, responsibility, leadership, self-discipline, and the ability to prioritize—among others. However, two very important life skills that theatre teaches, and sports don’t necessarily cultivate: Empathy and Compassion. Those two interpersonal skills are the most important traits of being a good community member and human being.
Theatre gives students hope, community, and applicable life-skills that they will be able to use long after graduation. Students will learn how to effectively paint walls, how to design and construct a project from start to finish, and different mediums in which they can communicate their ideas and visions. They will also learn new ways to approach fractions and measuring, that might have been glossed over in their math classes. They learn various other academic skills as well, such as:
- Problem solving
- Abstract thinking
- Creative thinking (2)
Along with this, studies have proven that students involved in arts and drama are significantly less likely to dropout of high school, and also are more likely to have good/consistent attendance. (1)
This might be because theatre helps build students’ self-esteem. Studies indicate that students who participate in drama and performance think of themselves more highly than those who do not.(1)(3) Theatre builds a social atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, generally speaking, which helps individuals who might feel out of place in traditional academics.
“A study published in Champions of Change (1999) cites theatre arts, including performance, classes, and participation in a drama club, as a source for ‘gains in reading proficiency, gains in self-concept and motivation, and higher levels of empathy and tolerance towards others’ among youth of low socio-economic status.”(1) Also, along with this, drama helps improve and maintain the social and linguistic skills of individuals with intellectual disabilities (I.D.). Because theatre helps foster and cultivate empathy in students, this also makes it far more likely that those individuals will be accepted in school by their peers. It also can improve individuals with I.D.s’ academic performance.(1)