All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...
- William Shakespeare
In my last post, I made the case for employing theater pedagogy as a means of helping students access more abstract, challenging literacy objectives. Now I will go so far as to propose that arts-integrated practice actually expands the capacity of any course to give students a more rigorous academic experience - one that is better aligned to the demands of college and career.
It has always been important to me that students view my course as more than a vehicle for becoming traditionally literate. Yes, I want you to leave with the ability to read and comprehend the words on a page, converse and argue about what you’ve read, and compose articulate, well-structured pieces of writing. But there are many other ways that someone can read, make sense of, and interact with the world.
For example, most work environments I have engaged in call for adequate emotional intelligence as well as technical ability to be successful. Close reading a text is not just an exercise in analytical thinking - at its best, it is also an exercise in empathizing. The most advanced essays demonstrate an ability on the part of the student to immerse themselves in the human dynamics of the story and take on multiple perspectives.
Adapting any text or concept for performance requires students to first thoroughly understand its content. Whether it’s a depiction of Hamlet’s personal musings or the components of a cell, comprehension is a necessary precursor to artistic rendering. Furthermore, theater projects require students to build all sorts of contemporary market skills from working in highly interdependent teams to rebounding from the rejection of not landing a preferred role.
Imagine how many math and science objectives can be woven into the process of designing and building a set; how much research goes into the development of period costumes, and how many project and people management skills go into director, producer, and stage manager positions. Additionally, the rehearsal structure of a theater production builds revision into the learning process - offering it as a given that individuals are intended to progress over time.
On February first and second, students at THS will be putting on an immersive theater production of Bugsy Malone. As you attend and appreciate what is shaping up to be an excellent performance, see if you can spot the hidden learning objectives built into different components of the work. Be on the lookout both for those features of the more traditional subjects and the courses you might not have taken until college - e.g. finance, graphic design, or art history.
And as you traverse the world of gangsters and chanteuses, showdowns and speakeasies, consider the ways in which a theater-integrated education prepares students to be successful on not only the academic, but also the world stage.