An article by Dr Anna Kadzik-Bartoszewska

Educate and Outreach Coordinator

The Gaiety School of Acting

Over the last years art museum educators have adopted on interdisciplinary approach by encouraging the youngest visitors to study art through literature, music, and drama.

Irish museums joined this approach very actively too and for many the educational programmes increased the foot fall. Museums are fighting for their place in education and for this reason our team showcased two workshops meant to emphasise the effectiveness of both performing arts and visual arts.

As today’s understanding of education do not highlight the result but the skills, the activities, the experience and the creative potential leading to the result; timing in museums gains importance and education activities must be exploratory and experiential (Atagok,1999) . Having this in mind we have started creating two workshops in association with The Chester Beatty Library.   The aim of the first workshop Ancient Noh Theatre in a Modern World Noh Theatre Workshop for the Teens Club (CBL) was to use drama to foster better understanding and appreciation of artefacts in display in The Chester Beatty Library. The combination of both drama-methods and artefacts as being an inspiration for the story line meant engaging participants in reconstructing, with their own interpretations, of historical events, stories and narratives. The artefacts set the stage and drama gave students the opportunity to actively participate in imagined worlds.  This approach effectively engaged participants and planted a curiosity in culture, art and history. Each group of participants was in charge of devising monologues for different characters, giving the mini play a setting of symbolic value and selecting a song to reflect the theme. In the final section of the workshop the groups performed their originally devised modern Noh theatre piece to each other.  The outcome was amazing and even the coordinators started interacting and having fun. Theatre elements helped participants to deeply understand ethnic and cultural values embedded in the museum’s artefacts and highly contributed to the aesthetic education of young people. Noh theatre was facilitated by Seamus Quinn.

Another workshop the Rama and Sita- Radio play was created for the younger group of 6-12 yrs. The idea was to use storytelling to bring Rama and Sita’s tale to life through creative writing and music. The participants at first were working on developing characters inspired by the story,  then they were creating their own soundscape with musical instruments and based on the images in the Library collection  were creating their very own costume for inspirational purposes. Facilitated by Kate Canning.

All participants were fully engaged and inspired by the story, they created a memorable piece a radio play that is now available on www.cbl.ie

The major goal for the above workshops, designed and carried out by the outreach department The Gaiety School of Acting, was to draw attention to the importance of teaching by using drama-methods in museums, to emphasize the effective and diverse use of museums for education but also to encourage other museums for such proactive initiatives.  Art offers alternative and stimulating pathways of learning and promotes aesthetic knowledge (Langer 1954) which in turn encourages intuitive understanding, hence forming the grounds for the evaluation and realization of our place in the world (Bruner 1979, 1990, Reid 1986).

In the last ten years Ireland has transformed from a traditional mono-cultural society to a more modern multicultural one. Many international settlers have arrived and the social and economic landscape has changed radically. Ireland has been undergoing its biggest demographic change since the famine.

As a result there is a particular responsibility on the educational system to embrace and empower the next generation and prepare it to take place in a radically diverse and new Ireland. As visitors of museums are not a uniform group the museum curriculum should address differentiated audiences through research into their needs (Hooper-Greenhill 2000: 29)

Interdisciplinary projects can help the younger generation in reconstructing their own ever-changing cultural identities of places which are under enormous change day by day. Both projects effectively encouraged participants to study art exhibits in their cultural context through drama. Instead of visiting like a spectator only, the young museum visitors interacted with items on display in the fictional world.  The dramatic fiction helped to develop multiple histories and cultural identities. Museums with rich artefacts inside them set the stage for understanding culture, art and history, therefore interdisciplinary educational approach would especially be useful for the teachers and museum educators. We should make better use of our museums and drama for educational purposes.