The Education Landscape: Building Engaged Theatre-Goers
This chapter examines the significant relationship between school education and young people’s attendance and engagement with live theatre. Through studying theatre as an exciting, participatory art form and through viewing diverse theatre productions with classmates and teachers, many school students become confident, motivated and critically engaged audience-members. Teachers play a vital role in inducting students without a family background of theatre attendance into live theatre as a meaningful and enjoyable cultural experience. However, inequitable educational funding, particularly in disadvantaged schools, restricts the capacity of some teachers to offer comprehensive drama programs or to provide their students with access to appropriate theatre experiences. Enthusiastic teachers within schools with a strong performing arts culture assist many students to build a social and educational platform for independent theatre attendance. Students from ‘theatre-active’ schools participate confidently in articulating, sharing and refining meaning of performances and are engaged by diverse styles of theatre including productions they perceive as difficult and challenging. In evaluating and analysing professional theatre they draw on their own practical drama experiences at school, identifying themselves as theatre-makers within an inclusive theatre community. Most drama students in the research believed that their drama teachers and their curriculum had significantly deepened their knowledge and appreciation of theatre and enhanced their critical enjoyment and confidence as audience members. However the linking of theatre excursions to compulsory performance analysis assessment tasks reduced some students’ enjoyment and constrained their responses as audience members.
KeywordsAudience Member Live Performance Senior Student Theatre Experience High School Certificate
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