This inaugural edition of Drama Research presents a broad spectrum of work and thought in articles that examine the multi-faceted nature of drama. Written from a range of international and age-range perspectives, together they reveal ways in which drama engages the mind, body and spirit of all those who participate.
Andy Kempe explores the edges of theatre form and moral values through a practical approach to Grand-Guignol. He argues that there is much to be learned through consideration of the ways in which modern audience responses differ from those who originally flocked to see these grotesque productions in Paris at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He suggests that in a practical workshop the moral imperatives and parameters involved in dealing with this mixture of form and content are highlighted and so placed in a position whereby they may be critically reviewed.
A discussion of a pilot study exploring the connection between power and community for urban students is at the heart of Bethany Nelson’s article. Her work extends existing research that has identified the establishment of community in the classroom as a factor in school success for students from non-dominant cultures. Through Boal-based theatre work and interview, she goes a step further to consider the ways in which community is a source of power for urban students of colour, and how it affects their risk-taking and self-advocacy.
David Montgomerie’s article reminds us of the complexity and sophistication that is to be found in the drama of children in the early years. He examines the idea of drama as a dialogic medium in relation to Bakhtin’s concept of ‘responsibility’ (Answerability of the Act 1993) and draws on case-study evidence from a small-scale curriculum intervention with a reception class during the course of a school year. The aim was to examine how very young children respond to ethical issues in drama, and whether an understanding of Bakhtin’s idea of dialogism might assist teachers in developing children’s sense of responsibility for their actions taken in role.
From the opposite end of the age spectrum, Jack Shu draws on Stanislaviski’s method of physical action to reflect on his own disappointing teacher in role performance with a group of high school students. Using narrative enquiry as the methodology, this honest critique of his own work reminds us of the focus, rigour and skill needed by the teacher in engaging this key pedagogy.
In her article, Laura McCammon interrogates the data she collected from experienced secondary students as part of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s advocacy programme: Theatre in Our Schools. In a global educational climate that sees the place of drama perpetually squeezed, and in which drama teachers continually find themselves arguing for recognition and curriculum security, this research project has revealed that the perspective of high school students, themselves, can be a very powerful advocacy tool.
Linda-Jane Simpson also draws on early years drama as she reports on a small-scale study undertaken as part of a wider ‘Citizenship and Democracy’ project with two contrasting nursery establishments. Recognising that the multi-faceted nature of drama resonates with the nature of children’s own processes of expression, she explores how drama allows the temporary suspension of the traditional power dynamic between adults and children.
From another starting point in Canada, Leonora Macy recognizes the ‘gap between theory and practice’ that means teachers who use drama as a teaching methodology in their classrooms are the exception. She examines the results derived from qualitative multiple case studies in which, over several years, she observed and gathered data from four different teachers who use drama in their language arts programmes. Focusing on one, she provides an engaging and revealing insight into a primary teacher’s emergence as one ‘who sees drama as an innovative and active form of bringing new ideas and concepts to her students’ and who always plans through her ‘drama eye’.
Finally, Viv Aitken reminds us that the reach of drama’s efficacy is not restricted to the learning of children and young people. She asserts the particular, and unique potency of process drama in the context of adult learning and creativity. Drawing on her experience in teacher education, community drama and professional development, she reflects on process drama’s capacity to liberate bodies, facilitate cognitive understanding and increase emotional capability in adults from a range of backgrounds.
The ways in which drama touches the mind, body and spirit of its participants resonate through these articles, as do the consequences they have for the practice of all of us who teach about and through drama and theatre.
Creating a place in which to share and stimulate our evolving understanding of how and why drama works in the way it does is key to National Drama’s mission. Drama Research is such a place. National Drama welcomes you to our new publication and invites you to share your work with our international community by contributing to Drama Research: international journal of drama in education.
Pamela Bowell, Chris Lawrence and Ruth Sayers
Drama Research Editorial Board