Drama and theatre experiences with young people in the Israeli context

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


When Brian Way and Peter Slade voiced their belief that theatre/drama in education is one of the great new possibilities of the twentieth century in education, they were convinced of its vast educational value. They advocated a central place for drama in the curriculum and by using their pioneering way of constructing knowledge in the field they developed social skills and personal confidence in their students via drama lessons. Through the early 1970s, Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton added other advantages and enhanced the prosperity of the field. Many others around the world opened up the gates to fresh possibilities of theatre/drama as a great combination of arts and education leading towards new horizons. Over the years, a considerable number of different forms of working with drama and theatre in education were established. They include: drama-in-education (DIE), theatre-ineducation (TIE), forum theatre, legislative theatre, theatre-for-awareness/ theatre-for-development, devised theatre/from fact to fiction, playback theatre, sociodrama, celebratory drama, hospital clownery, site-specific theatre, drama, myths and ritual forms of performance, live-action role play (LARP), street theatre, community theatre or theatre in the community, text-based amateur theatre, and improvisation and drama. There are, altogether, seventeen different theatrical ways of how to use drama in various educational and therapeutic systems. All of them are “celebrations of human interaction and creating and sharing meanings together”, as was explored in the “Drama Way Project”, a comprehensive work by Jouni Piekkari and others (2005). The Drama Way Project gathered main genres of participatory and applied drama and, under this inclusive heading, they include the above-mentioned different ways of applied drama. This enormous range of possibilities of using drama and theatre in education explains the unusual situation in which, when drama educators and researchers meet, they are engaged in vivid and extensive discussions, often exchanging experiences and successful strategies; but quite some time can pass before they realize that the concepts of drama education which they use differ considerably. These concepts range from completely spontaneous activities, such as improvisational exercises, to very carefully planned work, such as staging written scripts. They also include working indoors as well as outdoors, from working with children to working with adults, working in schools as well as in prisons, hospitals and community centres. There are indeed several different ways of participatory and applied drama. Many of the genres overlap, and the lines between them are therefore often blurred. However, the common understanding is that each of them emphasizes different aspects of theatre-making, and the feature common to all genres is respecting the process, assuming that it is as important as the product or performance itself. By examining each of the above-mentioned genres, one can find that all forms are frequently used as a tool for or a target of learning and empowerment, personal development, discussing themes, social change and decision-making. This main trend in applied drama or, as I prefer to call it, instrumental drama (Schonmann 2005) goes hand in hand with the therapeutic schools which have been flourishing since the 1970s, and the birth and the growth of new forms of social active theatre such as Boal’s theatre and playback theatre at the same time. Here is my claim: participatory and applied drama employ their main ideas and, accordingly, their terminology to the instrumental and the practical achievements that have been borrowed from the social, psychological and communication fields. Their “card index” does not contain aesthetic or artistic achievements. In the language used to describe their essence, there is usually very little about the art we are teaching or creating, or the theatre we want our students to enjoy. My claim is that by strapping instrumental tendencies we are cutting ourselves off from the artistic-aesthetic roots, we are becoming more and more like social workers or communication therapists. We must, therefore, ask ourselves: what has to be done to appreciate the “aesthetics” in instrumental drama? As we progress into the twenty-first century, we are still debating serious issues, asking perennial questions such as: Are drama and theatre separate entities? In what ways should creativity be cultivated? Should we deal with political issues? Are there any taboos? What is the nature of the work that we are doing? What is the main core of knowledge and experience that we feel obliged to nurture? What has theatre/drama education to offer? On the basis of these questions and the general account portraying the state of the field, I would elaborate on drama/theatre experiences with young people in Israel. How does the instrumental tendency described above concern the Israeli scene and how do some of the above questions resonate in the Israeli arena?.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDrama and Theatre with Children
Subtitle of host publicationInternational perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781317508632
ISBN (Print)9781138859746
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 C. Sharma.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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