As well as enjoyable outings to the theatre, what can be achieved by using the arts as a tool for education and personal growth is often overlooked. With ticket prices on the rise, and access to good quality theatre becoming difficult for some, there are artists and creatives working harder than ever to make the arts accessible for all. For example Malvern Theatres offers a ticket option for under 26 year old's whereby they can purchase eight pound tickets, much like Birmingham Repertory Theatre that holds a Preview Club.
Although, in some cases, these efforts are still not manageable. As a young person who may not have a lot of involvement in the arts it takes great courage and confidence to be an audience member or workshop participant. Young audiences are being asked to put themselves into the world of another, often leaving them to feel unnerved and protective over their own self-identity.
Great trust must be built before benefits are seen and in the shoes of a workshop leader confidence in skills and a knack for flexibility is paramount. Understandably, this may be why drama is not being suggested or encouraged as a tool for education, as non-artistic educators and role models are under the belief a great depth of skill and training is required to use the arts. This, however, is not necessarily the case and there are many unknown and subtle ways we can introduce drama to young people, even when we have little experience ourselves.
Drama and theatre is first and foremost a means of entertainment but even so “Through theatre we are transported into the hearts and minds of the characters, recognising and understanding their actions and feelings which encourages communication and learning empathy – all within a constructed, safe environment” (Columbus, 2014). Drama opens up a conversation and allows us to recognise patterns or behaviours in our lives, as well as an opportunity to learn about the world around us from a different perspective. Difficult topics can become simpler and a structured, yet more effective way forward can be achieved. As an alternative representation, young people are invited to view and question topics without even realising, without having to force it upon them through debate or theoretical methods.
However, getting to theatre or even having the theatre come to you can be somewhat challenging. But theatre does not have to mean watching a play, by participating in drama activities young people can still gain a plethora of skills. Theatre can be used to build self-esteem, and the confidence to take forward in job interviews and public speaking situations; alongside problem solving and teamwork. Simply put, Drama is not always about being a West End star wannabe or a BAFTA award winner. It offers much more than that and has proven its benefits to many in adulthood. So how can we as role models, teachers, youth workers and so on use drama to its full potential?
Theatre practitioner Jessica Swale, offers a fantastic selection of books full of detailed drama games and exercises. Each book is divided into different parts, concerning different objectives such as focus, energy and relaxation. Many of these games are flexible and adaptable for various situations and in her belief “Drama games can be as useful in a social or educational context as they are in the theatre" (Swale, 2009). Easy to read and put into practice, books like Swale's and Chris Johnston’s 'Drama Games for Those Who Like to Say No' are a pretty good introduction to using drama as a tool and not for a performance outcome.
As a drama newbie the thought of delivering a “drama” activity will of course leave you feeling slightly anxious. Perhaps even terrified at the thought of looking silly or making a mistake, but the great thing about drama is that in our mistakes is a lesson even within itself. The key for success is to be confident and well thought out with lenience to the plan as you can never know what to expect. Setting few but clear rules can be helpful for your participating group and reminding them of these rules frequently gives good ground for them to feel supported and safe. Ultimately, if you are prepared to put yourself out there, your group are likely to follow without pressure or force.
If you want to access other resources, most theatres offer educational and outreach packs on their websites. Additional websites like The Drama Toolkit and Drama Resource have a pool of drama games and sessions that can be followed with ease. As well as this you can always find step by step books like Swale's that have specific drama games for certain groups and individuals. Furthermore, If you are looking for personal support in your creative exploration, your local Arts Council Bridge Organisation (Arts Connect if you’re in the West Midlands) may be able to help you link with relevant practitioners who can help you develop your provision.