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The Importance of Creative Dramatic Activities/Games in the Classroom

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Written by Young Gaiety tutor Liz Tyndall. Liz teaches and directs the Youth Theatre Company in Malahide and holds an MA in Directing from University College Dublin.

 

“Of all the arts, drama involves the participant the most fully: intellectually, emotionally, physically, verbally, and socially. As players, children assume the roles of others, and they learn about becoming more sensitive to the problems and values of persons different from themselves. At the same time, they are learning to work cooperatively, for drama is a communal art; each person is necessary to the whole.”

Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond
Nellie Mc Caslin

Where else can you find police officers, astronauts, dinosaurs, princesses, toymakers, and chefs all happily working side-by-side? In a creative drama classroom, of course.
A child’s pretend play in a drama classroom or at home is often considered fun and imaginative, but with limited educational value. The truth is, in the midst of creating a restaurant together, space walking around the moon as astronauts, twirling around with friends in a fairy-tale land, or taking part in creative drama activities in general, children are learning to solve problems, coordinate, cooperate, take direction, take leadership and think flexibly in a fun and safe environment.

Creative drama activities offer an opportunity for children to:
• Expand self-awareness
• Develop imagination
• Think independently
• Work cooperatively
• Improve communication skills
• Express a healthy release of emotions
• Build social awareness

In essence, creative drama is dramatic activities which have the experience of the participants as the goal. Creative drama can include dramatic play, story enactment, imagination journeys, theatre/drama games, music, and dance. “Let’s pretend” is the norm in creative drama class, it’s not just a child’s game. Because the emphasis in creative drama is process rather than product, teachers should have the freedom to take as much time as needed with their classes. When a student in a creative drama class prefers to watch instead of participate, because of shyness or fear, a teacher should be able to allow this also. The teacher can also become a participant at any stage and let the children lead the activities rather than being guided through them. Creative drama can help children learn about emotions, problem solving, and relating to other people. Through their experiences with drama, students develop their imaginations and their confidence. One of the most special things about creative drama is that there are no “wrong” answers – through pretending, animals can talk, kids can travel to outer space or the jungle, and the sky can be green while the grass is blue.

Dramatic play is so important in all stages of child development. Through creative dramatic activities:

• Children learn about themselves and the world. Dramatic play experiences are some of the first ways children learn about their likes and dislikes, their interests, and their abilities. They experiment with role playing and work to make sense out of what they’re observing in real life.

• Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues. Have you ever witnessed children pretending to visit the doctor? One child dutifully holds the mock stethoscope as the others line up for a check-up. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way. Children often use pretend play to work out more personal challenging life events too, whether it is coping with an illness in the family, or the absence of a parent or divorce.

• Children develop important complex social and higher order thinking skills. Dramatic play is much more than simple play activities; it requires advanced thinking strategies, communication, and social skills. Through dramatic play, children learn to do things like negotiate, consider others’ perspectives, transfer knowledge from one situation to another, delay gratification, balance their own ideas with others, develop a plan and act on it, express and listen to thoughts and ideas, assign tasks and roles, and create different information and ideas. In this creative play description, we could just as easily be describing the skills needed to successfully manage a work project for an adult as describing children’s dramatic play.

• Children cultivate social and emotional intelligence. How we interact with others is key to our lifelong success and happiness. Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate emotions, negotiate and take turns, and engage in a long-term activity that is mutually beneficial are no easy tasks. There is no substitute for creative and imaginative play when it comes to teaching and enhancing these abilities in children.

• Children create knowledge and skills. Because learning and child development doesn’t happen in discrete pockets of time or during isolated activities, children need opportunities to blend their skills and knowledge together. Dramatic play is an ideal way to do this. Think of children acting out a ‘supermarket’ scenario. They take on roles such as shopkeeper, shop assistant and customers working collaboratively they are interacting and engaging with one another, using their imaginations to help make sense of the world around them.

For all these reasons, play and games are a huge part of Young Gaiety classes. We believe that the process, the development and the personal impact creative drama has on the child far outweighs the end product, particularly with young children.

Time and again parents communicate to us how Young Gaiety has improved their child’s confidence, sense of self and social skills. We believe strongly in the value of creative drama for a child’s development – come sign up for a Try for Free day this September to witness it yourself!

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Advocating for more Drama on the Northside of Dublin

By Maeve Fitzgerald, Actress.

This article was commissioned by The Northside Partnershipmaeve-fitzgerald-max-228x300

We’re all trying to avoid drama in our lives. That’s understandable. But sometimes, a bit of drama can be a good thing.

What exactly is drama? Well firstly, I want to separate drama from ‘hassle’ or ‘being famous in the movies or the West End’. Theatre and ‘drama’ as we know it was first recorded as religious ritual in Ancient Greece and very quickly evolved to become a necessary tool that their society used to satisfy a human need to within us all; to tell the truths that we can’t tell.

By hiding behind masks, whether it be physical masks as they used in Greek theatre or the mask of a character that is not you, we can tell stories that we otherwise might not have the ability or bravery to tell. Corruption, power, jealousy, love were all themes that were prevalent in the first recorded plays from that time. Drama was used as a form of expression and exposure; using the power of the story or fable or allegory to make sense of the world around us and to take ownership of the shared human experience.
So what does this have to do with us here on the Northside? What does drama have to offer young people today who literally have the world at their fingertips? Simple; self-expression and self-confidence. Drama can be cathartic, therapeutic and transformative.

A quick Google search of drama schools Dublin yields 17 results on the Southside and 10 on the Northside. I broke down the biggest cast I have ever been in and leaving out the people from outside Dublin there were 9 Southsiders and 2 Northsiders. There are 6 third level institutions that produce the majority of working theatre practitioners in the city. 1 of them is on the Northside. These statistics don’t need to be elaborated on. They speak for themselves; that we simply do not have the same opportunities for children on this side of the river to explore the benefits of drama.

Several colleagues who work in the arts on the Northside mainly echoed the same theme- that they were able to have careers in the arts in spite of rather than because of being from the Northside. This is slowly improving and support schemes are being put in place and it will be interesting to see what great work this yields in the future. But let’s talk about now.
Not everybody who does drama wants – or rather needs – to be an actor. But the holistic benefits of drama far outstretch the dramatic arts. A friend of mine who teaches children speech and drama told me of the simple but life-altering effects it has had on her students. She has watched children too shy to speak their name aloud in front of their peers blossom into young people who are chomping at the bit for their voices to be heard. Taking part time courses in the Gaiety School of Acting in Temple Bar as a young teenager gave me, a very shy child, the confidence to make decisions about what I wanted to do to the rest of my life, and to recognise that the hierarchy of secondary school, where I was not one of the glossy girls, was temporary and that there were other possibilities beyond those occasionally repressive walls. It’s not just that drama is for those of us who don’t fit in, it’s for those of us who occasionally feel that our voice is not heard. In short, it’s for everybody. Drama for children should be a safe space where children can discover themselves. It enables children to articulate the inarticulable. It can be a magical space where that rarest of rare things is true- whatever you create, it’s impossible to get it wrong, because it’s yours.

How would having easier access to this have benefited me growing up on the Northside before I reached my teens and was allowed ‘into town’? Simple. I would have reached these conclusions sooner. I would have read more. I would have mixed more. I would have dipped my toe outside my comfort zone more. As an only child, I made up a lot of stories in my head. My parents broke up when I was seven and like a lot of young children do, I suspected it was partly my fault. Speech and drama classes would have provided an outlet for me to explore what was going on inside me.

There were none in Kilbarrack. And at that time my parents didn’t drive.

I can only speak from my experience. Would I have been a happier child if I had that space to create stories with other children and would I have been a more confident child if I had the knowledge that making up stories does not just have to be child’s play? That it is a worthwhile way of telling the world how we feel? Yes I would. We need to give children on this side of the city more space and freedom to explore this, and it has never been more important than now. Snapchat, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram are blinkering young people’s view of the world. The world indeed, now exists in a screen that is 4.5 by 2.3 inches. And from an early age, children are exposed to what societal and peer pressures dictate what they ‘should’ be, not what they ‘are’. Being at a friend’s house with her two young daughters recently my heart was broken to see them going from being engrossed in a board game to engrossed in their screens because a familiar jingle notified them that Kylie Jenner had uploaded a new make-up item on Snapchat. Nobody looks up anymore. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. And it is a kind of natural progression, no doubt. But it would be naive to think that it is not having an impact on the imaginations of our children.
This is why we need a place where phones and self-consciousness are put aside, even for an hour and children are told- ok, this is your space to dream, and to turn those dreams into stories and none of those stories are wrong because your stories are enough because YOU are enough.

If young people aren’t given the opportunity to fly beyond the bounds of what social media dictates then we can forget about churning out Brendan Gleesons, Liam Cunninghams, Roddy Doyles, Damien Dempseys.

There’s beauty and inspiration all around us on the Northside. We have the nicest coastline, the most impressive Georgian architecture, the two best theatres, we have the main music venue in the country, the main sports stadium; we should be the ones to fill them.

The great work that Dublin Youth Theatre, the Billie Barry School and our other Northside drama schools are doing should be more locally available. Not everybody can afford fees. Approach organisations like the Northside partnership and community centres, community leaders, even politicians and ask for an investment. Because an investment in children’s confidence and creativity is an investment in the future of this country. We are known globally as the great storytellers of the world. It would be an amazing testament to the already well-established resilience of the Irish spirit if, in spite of our digital age, we continued to be able to produce the creative, artistic and brave minds that have ensured that in spite of our size we globally still bat with the big boys of literature, art, drama, music. But that responsibility does not lie with someone else, it starts at home. In our communities. It is up to us to see the value of giving a child a voice through play and creativity.

How can a child who is being bullied at school articulate the pain of being singled out when all you want to is fit in?
How can a child make sense of the muddled up feeling that come with the simple yet often traumatic experience of simply growing up?
Giving children the chance to play and let go is damage limitation. It is through play and creation that children make sense of things. It is not going to solve all of our societal problems but it is a step in the right direction in dealing with where we are a nation and what impact and residue that will leave on our children. We all suffer from the ‘it’ll be grand’ mentality when it mightn’t ‘be grand’ at all. If we give our children a place where their voices and their games and there confusions and their joys and their dreams can be played out in a safe space the world for them becomes a much less scary place. And going into adulthood it provides them with the knowledge that being themselves is an ok thing to be.

I’m proud to be a Northsider. And we are as well able to be just as conscious of the value of creativity in our children’s lives as our friends on the other side of the river. And I don’t just mean drama. Art classes, music classes, dancing classes; anything that gets the right-brain juiced up.

Talk to your children’s school or your local community centre or library about bringing in a drama teacher once a week, even once a month. It does not have to break the bank 3 euro each from 30 students would more than cover the costs of an hour or two’s work. All you need is a venue, a qualified and of course Garda vetted teacher and a few willing participants. Bring your children to plays, trust me, it’s way more exciting than the cinema. We have the Viking Theatre just down the road if you don’t want to travel into town. Or look into one of the drama schools that is already in operation here.

For those of you whose children are already doing speech and drama or music or art or dancing, you have made in invaluable investment in your child’s future and self-expression. They mightn’t know it now but they’ll thank you for it. And it does not have to stop with children. Every now and again, adults need to chance to play aswell. An hour a week of letting go of the desk, the phone, the car, the family can renew your relationship with yourself. So let’s give it a go here on the Northside and let’s not be afraid of having a little bit of drama in our lives.

The Gaiety School of Acting delivers classes in Malahide on the Northside of Dublin every Saturday for kids aged 4 – 18 years. New term begins in January. See here for more information!

 

Accent Masterclass for Auditions

Being asked to perform a monologue or sides for an audition for a specific role often calls for acquiring an accent. If you can alter your accent convincingly and as flawlessly as possible, you’re halfway there to securing the part! Many excellent actors are thrown by this part of the job – don’t let yourself be one of them! This Sunday we still have spaces remaining in our Accent workshop with Gaiety School of Acting Voice Coach Russel Smith.09

Russel opens actors up to the range, depth and subtlety of their communication, verbal and non-verbal, treating practicalities such as projection, clarity or accent, as extensions of a more fundamental integrated development of physicality and psyche. Synthesising a range of approaches, he encourages students to begin building their own methodical process in illuminating and interpreting extant texts, and fostering their artistic voices toward developingnew work. Russel is an Honours graduate of TCD and of the Gaiety School of Acting with a background in physical therapy, alongside 20 years experience as actor on stage and screen, singer and musical director/composer/accompanist, Russel has engaged in extensive on-going training with a range of founding-members of the Roy Hart Theatre at the International Centre for Voice in France (most significantly Kevin Crawford, Kaya Anderson, and more recently, Jonathan Hart), and numerous other coaches and physical practitioners. In recent years voice, dialect and singing coach at both ACTT and AADA in Sydney, Australia; Long-standing singing coach and musical director at the Gaiety School; previously repetiteur and singing coach for the degree programme in acting at Trinity College Dublin.

The workshop is this Sunday 6th November from 10am-5pm 

With our accent Workshop the focus is on learning to create an authentic accent with your voice. Whether you need to learn an accent for stage or even a voiceover, this workshop is designed to facilitate how to copy that accent you need without needing to be a native.

Participants of the Accent Masterclass can expect to:

  • Learn what to look for in order to break down any accent into its constituent parts.
    analyse and then practice the useful accents of Received Pronunciation, Cockney and General American.
  • Gain an invaluable addition to your CV

Book here now!

 

 

 

Advice & Tips for your Drama School Audition

You’ve submitted your application, you’ve received your Round 1 audition date and time and the day has finally arrived. Insomnia got the better of you the night before and now you’re feeling tired as well as nervous. But hey, at least you’re prepared … or so you think you are.

Preparation is the key to success for every audition, especially for the Gaiety School of Acting – the National Theatre School of Ireland. And that doesn’t mean just remembering all of the lines. Finding the right monologues that are age appropriate and engaging will help you to stand out from the crowd. Monologues should be contrasting in order for us to gauge your range of acting ability. For example, if you choose Juliet’s speech before she takes the potion, then it would be wise for you to go for a comedic contemporary piece for your other monologue. On the other hand, if you’re a strong singer and would like to perform a monologue which would encompass a song, by all means, go for it. Playing to your strengths is always a good thing.

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When it comes to choosing your pieces, never pick them from a monologue book. It’s important that you read the plays in their entirety so that you understand the motives and complexities behind the character’s speech. There is nothing worse than a one-dimensional performance and the audition panel will recognise an ill-prepared monologue immediately. You may also be asked questions about the character and why you chose the piece or if you felt a particular affinity to him/her. We want to make sure that you’ve done your research. This indicates to us your level of attention to detail and commitment – traits that we look favourably upon at the GSA. Film might be your thing but it doesn’t work when it comes to general theatre auditions. We’ve experienced way too many Marlon Brando impressions for our liking so steer clear!

We tend to see the same audition pieces over and over again and there’s good reason for that. Some stand the test of time better than others. However, to ensure that your contemporary monologue isn’t being performed to the audition panel for the fifth time that day, consider doing a piece of new writing from a play that you have seen and enjoyed recently. Consider something from Fishamble’s ‘Tiny Plays for Ireland’ or from the Rough Magic SEEDs programme. Don’t be shy about approaching the production companies if you wish to read a script of a play that has already been staged but has yet to be published. There is a lot of goodwill amongst the theatre community and they will take it as a compliment that you want to use their material for an audition. Another useful source is the Irish Playography website – http://www.irishplayography.com/
So you’ve chosen your monologues, read the plays inside out and could probably deliver an hour long seminar to PhD candidates. Now to test it on a willing faux panel! Ask your drama teacher, your English teacher (if you’re still in school) or a fellow thespian to watch you rehearse; or even enroll on a Casting & Audition Masterclass. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

One of the vital elements of your audition is your voice. The panel need to be able to hear you so it is essential that you are clear and articulate in your delivery. We run regular Voice Masterclasses throughout the year, facilitated by tutors on our Two Year Full Time Professional Actor Training Programme, where you will learn how to regulate your breathing and ground yourself. And use your own accent. It can detract from your performance if your ‘Noo Yawk’ accent is terrible. Same goes for a Shakespearean monologue.

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Movement and gesture may be fundamental when it comes to embodying the character fully but stillness can be just as powerful. Think about how the character might move. Use movement wisely and naturally. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing an actor walk erratically around a room, head bent, when the character calls for a performance that should be centre stage and directed outwards.

Be flexible. You may be asked to perform your monologue in a different tone or directed at one of the panel members. You will need to be able to think on your feet so don’t get locked into performing your pieces just one way. Play with the words, play with the gestures, play with the blocking.

Following your audition, the panel will want to learn more about you, the person. How passionate are you about acting, theatre, the Arts? When did you last see a play? Why choose the Gaiety School of Acting? Why train? They want to get a sense of your commitment to the craft, your openness to learn, to understand your motivation to become an actor and your ambition to create.

You have 15 minutes to shine. Energy, preparedness and adaptability will help you over the line. That and good old raw talent. Think of it as a performance with a captive audience. Try to remember the panel are real people too and they want you to succeed. And most importantly, enjoy the experience and the lifetime of opportunities it may bring.

Book your audition for the Gaiety School of Acting Full-Time Actor Training Programme Here.

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Karen Lee, Full-Time & International Programme Coordinator

 

Summer Courses for Teachers – In Their Shoes

Drama in education is a learning experience that is based on working in role and is active, interactive, reflective, shared and creative. Drama in education cuts across subject-matter lines and brings together various aspects of the curriculum in a meaningful way. With the current focus on emotional health, schools are seeking ways to build resilience and combat bullying. In 2013 the Gaiety School of Acting outreach team responded to this issue by creating a unique training programme ‘In Their Shoes’ for teachers and students of Primary Schools.

Continue reading “Summer Courses for Teachers – In Their Shoes”

Combating Elder Abuse through Creative Drama

The Gaiety School of Acting is honoured to have the opportunity to work on this Erasmus+ project, alongside Age Action and our European partners. Below is a chapter from the E-Book, with the entire publication to be found here.

4.2 The Performing Arts and Drama Approaches to Training

4.2.1 Creative drama

It was the ancient Greeks who first coined the term ‘drama’. Its meaning today remains very similar to their use of the verbs ‘to do’ or ‘to act’  and from drama, theatre evolved.

Augusto Boal, in his introduction to Theatre of the Oppressed, asks the question ‘should art educate, inform, organise, influence, incite to action or should it simply be an object of pleasure? (1985: xiiii). The former offers the possibility of addressing elder abuse by involving people in creative drama to improve their quality of life and to combat ageism in all its forms.

‘Creative drama’ is an approach specifically developed for educational and awareness raising purposes. It is an improvisational, non-performance driven and process oriented form of drama. Learner-participants are guided by a facilitator to imagine, enact and reflect on experiences that may be real or hypothetical scenarios designed to raise specific issues in a space where thoughtful engagement with difficult subjects can occur.

Creative drama is the preferred term for dramatic experiences that are designed for the development of cognitive, affective, aesthetic, and moral thinking of the participants. Methods of creative drama which address social and cultural issues are varied in their approach. Creative drama is holistic in nature and combines internal reflection and external representation. The common core of basic activities is always improvised. The process leads to an acceptance of self, an awareness of personal resources, and an awareness of the internal and external influences on living (Freeman, 2003).  For this reason creative drama has been used as a means of addressing the mental, physical, and emotional development of varying cultures. In practice, individuals and groups set out to resolve problems and seek solutions through the medium of exploration and expression.

Creative drama has grown in recent years and become the keystone of the work of numerous charities, NGOs and theatre companies across Europe.  Programmes using this approach provide bespoke toolkits and advanced training, tailored with care to individual situations in order to access the cultural traditions and understanding of a project’s audience to clearly and sensitively address areas of conflict for communities or age groups (Amollo, 2002)

As outlined above, creative drama is an exploratory tool used with other multi-disciplinary methods to understand, promote and achieve social change. Creative drama, in its development, has expanded to meet the needs and demands of our ever-changing demographic environment.  Sociodrama is now a well-developed and increasingly important tool for increasing social awareness and bringing about positive behavioural change.

4.2.2 Sociodrama

Sociodrama is based on the work of Dr Jacob Levy Moreno (1889-1974), who is also known for his creation of psychodrama, a method of group psychotherapy which focuses on the individual and their inner thoughts to help achieve understanding and change.

 

Maurine Eckloff in her article Using Sociodrama to Improve Communication and Understanding (2006),  refers to Moreno’s understanding of sociodrama in his book,  Who shall survive? (1953):

While psychodrama focuses on the internal interactions of one man, sociodrama focuses on individuals in the process of interaction. Moreno defines sociodrama as a deep action method dealing with group relations. (Moreno, 1953: 87)

Moreno also states that in psychodrama the attention of the director is upon the individual and his private problems which are allowed to unfold before the group of learner-participants. Although the group approach is used, psychodrama is learner-centred and is concerned with the personal development of a group of private individuals. By contrast, with sociodrama, the group is the subject. Moreno explains that sociodrama is based on the assumption that the group formed by the audience is already organised by the participants social and cultural roles (Moreno, 1953: 87).

In sociodrama the group corresponds to the individual in psychodrama. Psychodrama deals with personal problems and personal catharsis (Koleva, 2012: 313). Sociodrama approaches social problems in groups and aims to achieve a social catharsis (Moreno, 1953: 88). Sociodrama focuses on spontaneity which operates in the present (Koleva, 2012, p. 313). The group and the individuals within it are propelled toward an adequate response to a new situation or a new response to an old situation (Moreno, 1993: 13). Hence sociodrama is a method by which a group of individuals select and spontaneously enact a specific social situation common to their experience. Each participant assumes and dramatises a variety of roles, usually focusing on problems and conflicts arising in certain interpersonal situations. It is a method for exploring the relationships within and between groups in societies, whether local, national or global. The practitioner learns to analyse such ‘systems’ by setting them out physically using objects or group members as representations, giving voice to these identified roles within the system or culture. Through role exploration (role reversal, doubling, mirroring amongst other provocative tactics), the practitioner helps the group to identify where new responses might be possible and to practice the necessary skills to achieve the desired change. The emphasis is always on understanding how individuals, teams and organisations function (Appendix One provides examples).

The methods used encompass a wide range of techniques:  ‘action methods’ draw on role theory, role training, sociometry and sociodrama. Sociodrama and action methods are profoundly effective and are used worldwide in organisational and professional settings[1].They may be used for many purposes including to:

  • assist communication;
  • negotiation;
  • conflict management and team building;
  • action research and strategic planning;
  • predict outcomes or rehearse implementation;
  • supervise managerial or training problems.

4.3 Sociodrama as a vehicle for change

Sociodrama is intrinsically connected with social issues and social action (Sternberg & Garcia, 2000:. 190). Moreno used the approach as far back as 1921 to mobilise people. He proved its value in various projects as exemplified in the Theatre of Spontaneity and his Impromptu theatre. Theatre of Spontaneity and improvisational acting out-exercises were seen by Moreno as having positive outcomes. Later his method was used with many other dramatic aesthetics in the treatment of people with mental and physical disabilities. (Scheiffele, 2008)

Private and public agencies are increasingly interested in employing the arts to strengthen communities.  Sociodrama provides an opportunity for the dramatic enactment of real life situations or conflicts that often go unresolved (Ridderstrøm, 2015: 8). These issues are multifaceted, and every organisation and situation is  different, therefore sociodramas on any given topic are always custom-designed based on the unique experience. Sociodramas can be used in a variety of ways to explore and resolve a multitude of issues within workplaces including conflict, management/subordinate relationships and gender and race issues.

Bradshaw-Tauvon (2001) reflected on the use of sociodrama for peace building within local, regional and international conferences in the UK, Sweden and Israel. She wrote that these settings provide a marvellous forum to bring together diverse cultures to explore social issues. She also described how sociodrama can be used to nurture genuine encounters between individuals and small groups and to create ways to affect constructive change in and between societies, cultures and countries (Kellermann, 2007: 23).

In the book, Sociodrama: Who’s in your shoes?, Patricia Sternberg and Antonia Garcia (2000) outline a number of case studies. One examines the effect of sociodrama on a group of carers establishing an AIDS care unit. Sternberg and Garcia highlight the difference between learning new behaviour and learning new roles. Changing the way you acknowledge and express different emotions can radically alter their effect. Learning new behaviours within roles we already play can create new perspective.

‘For instance, a teacher who practices being more firm with his students regarding deadlines for reports is not learning a new role but learning new behaviours to play an old role with greater satisfaction.’ (Sternberg and Garica, 2000: 200)

In Ireland, the Gaiety School of Acting developed and implemented two programmes using sociodrama to address social issues: BREATHE[2] and IN THEIR SHOES. The BREATHE programme is a professional response to rising suicide rates among younger people. BREATHE focuses on changing attitudes and improving links between teachers, parents and teenagers. It opens up the potential for communication on a more personal level and breaks down feelings of isolation within oneself, within a school setting and increases a sense of integration within the broader community. IN THEIR SHOES is an anti-bullying drama-based programme which aims to foster an understanding of how active learning strategies can improve the classroom atmosphere.

Numerous studies highlight the impact of involvement in the arts on individuals and communities alike. Edward Fiske (1999) in Champions of Change: the impact of the arts on learning pointed to significant improvements in learning ability drawn from his extensive study. It is universally acknowledged that classroom learning is effective only for a proportion of students, by using the arts as a learning tool, changing the learning environment can open the possibility of effective learning to many more students. Furthermore, in the Princeton University study How the Arts impact community,  Joshua Guetzkow (2002) measures the cognitive and psychological impact of participation in the arts on the individual and found it offers an increased “sense of individual”, self-esteem “and a sense of belonging or attachment to community” (Guetzkow , 2002:.3). He correlates his findings with the beneficial effects of the arts in the social and cultural context indicating an increased “sense of collective identity” (2002, :3).

4.4 Types of sociodrama practices

There are three main types of sociodrama:

  • Crisis;
  • Political;
  • Diversity.

Peter Felix Kellerman describes crisis sociodrama as dealing with “collective trauma and group responsive to catastrophic events of national significance”, (2007: 64) such as riots, natural disasters and wars. Whereas diversity sociodrama deals, “with conflicts based on stereotypes, prejudice, racism, intolerance, stigmatisation or negative bias against people because of their diversity” (2007: 104). Political sociodrama is seen as being, “closely related to political theatre” (Kellerman , 2007. 84).  A number of approaches are used including image theatre, forum theatre, rainbow of desire and Boal’s (1972,1992), Theatre of the Oppressed.

Forum theatre is a form of interactive theatre developed by the late Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal, as part of his Theatre of the Oppressed. The focus is on shared experiences that stimulates debate, communication and understanding of different perspectives in word and motion[3]. Forum theatre empowers the audience to actively explore different options for dealing with shared problems and motivates them to make positive changes in their own lives (Taite, 2010). The audience is shown a short play in which a central character (protagonist) encounters an oppression or obstacle led by an oppressor (antagonist), which s/he is unable to overcome.

4.5 Tackling elder abuse and promoting change through creative drama

4.5.1 Tackling elder abuse – a multifaceted concept

Elder abuse is a complex, multifaceted concept.  The discussion so far highlights what Biggs (2014) refers to as three different narratives or discourses  – elder abuse conceived as located within interpersonal relationships, elder abuse as a result of ageism at an organisational/societal level and elder abuse due to the failure of the state to protect the individual’s human rights.  In developing a programme to promote change, ways of opening up interconnecting pathways between these narratives are considered.

At the interpersonal relationship level, adopting a generational intelligence approach by building empathy generates positive interactions, permitting individuals to get beyond their own priorities and the social barriers surrounding age. At the organisational level, aspects of the culture of an institution can lead to the failure to provide appropriate care to older people.  These include ageist attitudes, loss of personal identity and the positioning of the older person within the context of factors that include status, rights and duties. Elder abuse addressed within the context of human rights is rarely recognised at the level of interpersonal relationships, but more as a macro level obligation. Hence little work has been done on promoting such rights at the micro level.

Elder abuse and the protection of human rights are of serious concern across the spectrum of care settings. This has been highlighted by Theurer et al (2015) in a study of activities in residential care settings, where residents report frustration around their lack of influence and independence, and paternalistic communication styles among staff. Biggs et al (1995) point to how abuse in institutional settings needs to be dealt with separately as it is associated with certain characteristics. For instance, these include differences in perception as to the role of the institution, for staff it is a workplace but for residents it is their home. However residents must lead their private lives outside of their domestic environment, in a public setting. The institution, whilst a public place, can be cut off from the outside world. With the pressures of work, individual and broader institutional structures dominate, and where tasks or workload become more important than residents’ rights and requirements, “mistreatment is always waiting in the wings”. (Biggs et al. 1995: 78)

4.5.2 Applying sociodrama to training

As has been previously established, sociodrama has the ability to be an intergenerational learning strategy that combines a case study approach with traditional role-play methodology to raise and address a variety of issues to directly tackle elder abuse. Enhancing empathy and raising awareness of human rights will be one of the main objectives. This unique customized approach to training can also facilitate personal growth, raise consciousness, and initiate attitudinal and behavioural changes in the learner-participants. The benefits of applying these dramatic techniques in educational and training settings are wide reaching.  Not only can they provide an action-oriented forum for resolving conflicts among people with different views and life experiences, reflecting the concept of generational intelligence, they are also effective in:

  • clarifying personal and organisational values;
  • developing social skills;
  • problem solving;
  • diagnosing organisational issues;
  • nurturing understanding;
  • enhancing empathy;
  • developing and rehearsing action plans;
  • improving personal effectiveness and awareness.

The sociodrama system incorporates four components:

  1. It is based on the realities and issues being actively experienced by the participants or organisation.
  2. The investigation proceeds through improvisational theatre allowing workshop participants to explore the issues and share through their own experiences, thus, encouraging group empowerment and ownership over the workshop. In sociodramas, participants take on the role of another. This allows them to develop an empathic understanding of that person’s point of view or feelings, allowing them the opportunity to walk in another’s shoes.
  3. Within the scene work a dialogue is opened up between the characters and the audience (other participants), allowing interpersonal relationships to develop and other perspectives to be explored in which numerous alternative communication strategies can be discovered. Discussion should assist participants and audience to realise motivations, purposes, behaviour, implications and possibilities for the prevention of problem situations.
  4. Through the intentionally designed experiential workshops the educational, behavioural and psychological objectives can be promoted, encouraging the participants to reflect on how to achieve the implementation of the goals identified within their own organisation.

Creative drama is a group interaction process used to assist all types of people in meeting specified goals. The method draws upon a person’s ability to learn with their whole body and mind It is a kinaesthetic, emotional and cognitive educational methodology (Hawkins, 2014). The concepts underpinning intervention workshops can address elder abuse prevention on a number of levels – empowerment through education, activation of human rights through awareness and by building empathy to challenge ageism can aid the broader development of elder abuse policy.

4.6 Conclusion

Throughout this chapter we have investigated the potential of sociodrama underpinned by a generational intelligence framework as an effective vehicle for development and delivery of elder abuse  prevention and intervention strategies.  Generational intelligences strives to enable others walk in an older person’s shoes. Sociodrama supports the learning of new behaviours within roles we already play, by reflecting on why we act in a certain way. The proposed model has the potential to revolutionise current approaches to elder abuse prevention models by challenging ageist stereotyping, enhancing relationships and increasing understanding between caregivers and care recipients.

[1] Sociodrama and Creative Action Network (SCAN) http://www.sociodrama.co.uk

[2] https://gaietyschool.com/outreach/post-primary-school/breathe/

[3] http://www.tobe.ie

Thespian Toddlers at the GSA

It will be no surprise to most parents these days to hear how important play is to a child’s early development. Through play, small children and babies explore their world, develop key motor skills and generally wiggle and giggle their way towards becoming social beings.  A toddler doesn’t merely like the look of bubbles as they dance above his head; his brain is marvelling at how and why this magic works! Your baby is not just throwing a ball at your head to make you squeal (no, but it IS a happy coincidence) she’s also discovering how to wrap her paw around this enticingly round object and, just like that a flick of the arm propels it through the air! By making your mud pies in the back garden, your kids are mimicking your coffee dates and dinner parties, copying all those little social interactions, and in doing so are rehearsing for a lifetime of their own.

Parent & Toddler 3What some parents DO need reminding of is that you are your little one’s first play partner and a Parent & Toddler class is the ideal environment in which to jump-start your playful side! A Parent & Toddler class is all about fun, togetherness and leaving the inhibitions of the grown-up world at the door, and so it is fitting that drama should be the medium for this. Whether you are a primary school kid in a school pageant or an octogenarian actor treading the boards of the National Theatre, drama is in essence playful. Communication through the arts is acknowledged as part of the Department of Education’s Early Education Programme – Aistear. Aistear encourages children to learn, question and explore their own identity through drama, music and the visual arts and as such, toddler drama classes give your child a head start on what is now an integral part of Montessori and Primary school curriculums nationwide.
In Parent & Toddler Drama your child will get physical exploring movement, develop language skills through simple rhymes and story-telling and spark their imagination and little brain cells on a multi-sensory level through colour, touch and sound. Perhaps even more importantly they’ll love seeing Mammy and Daddy acting silly, laughing and doing all those crazy things it’s not always easy to find time to do. And yes, you’ll love it too!

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Parent & Toddler Drama starts 16th January from 10am-11am at The Gaiety School of Acting in Temple Bar. Term 3 kicks off on April 16th. €100 for the term and bookings can be made at 016799277 or at gaietyschool.com

This article was originally published in Easy Parenting Magazine’s Feb/March issue.

Fingal Film Festival 2016 Open for Submissions

As the dust settles on the 2015 event the dedicated team at Fingal Film Festival announces the opening of their 2016 submissions. The end of this year sees the beginning of the submission process for the fifth instalment of Fingal Film Festival’s annual event, which will take place in the month of September 2016.

As we recover from a successful 2015 event, the Festival team are preparing for what promises to be the best year so far with bigger awards, a host of amazing guest speakers and a load of other surprises that will be announced, as the team roll out its full schedule over the next six months.Our 2015 event saw bigger screening and workshop attendances, proving that the Fingal Film Festival is the best Independent Festival to have your work seen by large audiences and is a fantastic platform for emerging filmmakers from Ireland and abroad says Liz Kenny, the Festivals Managing Director.

Our focus for 2016 is to create a Festival that is diverse in content, offering and interactive experience with filmmakers and cinemagoers alike during next year’s event says Creative Director Dave Byrne. A challenge I and the team are looking forward to says Dave.
As part of the centenary celebrations in 2016, the festival will be dedicating a slot in the schedule for all subjects relating to the 1916 Rising. Any filmmakers creating content in any of the mediums screened at the festival is encouraged to submit for possible inclusion in the Fingal Film Festival 2016.

The opening of the Festival’s submissions for 2016. The categories are as follows:

  • Animation
  • Irish Language
  • International Films
  • Short Films
  • Documentaries
  • Feature Films
  • Student Films
  • Fingal Newcomer Media Award – (Director / Writer / Producer / DOP ( Living in Fingal Area) )
  • Outstanding Achievement in Media Award – (Director / Writer / Producer / DOP / Journalist ) This award will be given to any filmmaker who breaks new ground in any of the categories or creates a new way of storytelling.

For more information on how to submit your film, please visit http://www.fingalfilmfest.com or email us at pr@fingalfilmfest.com

Smashing Times Theatre Project: Women, War and Peace

Using creative processes to explore the role of women in Europe from World War II to the present and the power of the EU in promoting Peace and Gender Equality today
Co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union

Women, War and Peace is a new project using creative processes to explore the role of women in European from World War II to the present, as well as the power of the EU in promoting peace and gender equality today. The project is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union. This year-long transnational project involves four European partners from Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland and marks the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWII by using creative processes and on-line resources to promote a remembrance of European history with a focus on women’s experiences of WWII and their journey within Europe from 1945 to the present day. Using theatre, film and political activism, this project raises awareness of the formation of the EU, its history and diversity and its role today in promoting peace, gender equality, cultural diversity and the well being of all its citizens.

As one of Ireland’s leading organizations in delivering performance work in social and professional contexts, Smashing Times is the lead organization working in partnership with Institute de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales (IFES), Valencia, Spain; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, Hannover, Germany; and Akademia Humanistyczno-Ekonomiczna w Lodzi, Lódz, Poland.

The project brings different citizens and communities together to explore a remembrance of WWII and all those who died including the women who actively campaigned against Fascism and Nazism and promoted liberty. The project explores what can lead to a rise of intolerance and totalitarianism and raises awareness of how citizens can actively support peace and equality today. Equality is a fundamental principle of the EU. However there is still more to be done and women’s rights are under attack from extremists around the world. There is a need to re-affirm a commitment to gender equality as a key component for democracy and peace. Women’s rights are an essential component of universal human rights. Women are powerful drivers of change and this transnational project remembers the role of women in Europe and power of the EU in promoting peace and gender equality for all. The project results in an on-line Research and Resource pack; a Remembrance through Drama Workshop model; a performance; public debates and Legislative Theatre sessions; a webinar linking four countries; an on-line Questionnaire and an International Conference taking place in Dublin in September 2016.

To launch the project Smashing Times held an International Pan-European Meeting on the 28 October 2015 at the Carmelite Community Centre, Whitefriar Street, Dublin where representatives from Spain, Germany and Poland met with artists from Ireland.
Do you think World War 11 has had any impact on your life or on the life of someone you know? Smashing Times are making an open call asking the general public to join their project. Although Ireland was neutral during World War II, there are indeed many Irish women who travelled to Britain and beyond to fight against Nazism and Fascism. The company is searching for these and other untold stories of Irish women active in history including dissenters, anti-war demonstrators, soldiers, victims and pacifists. If you have any stories relating to the role of Irish women during WWII that you wish to share please get in touch. And those interested in knowing more about the project are welcome to attend workshops and performances and to contribute to the memory of these women. For more information please contact Freda at Smashing Times using the details below.

Smashing Times Theatre Company
Tel: + 353 (0) 1 865 6613 Tel: + 353 (0) 87 221 4245
Fax: + 353 (0) 1 873 5283
Email: freda@smashingtimes.ie
Website: http://www.smashingtimes.ie
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/smashingtimestheatrecompany
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Smashing_Times

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