Theatre in Education

Investigating Social Affairs

Theatre in Education (TIE) began in Britain in 1960 and continued to develop in the following two decades. This kind of theatre stages plays which are written under a specific educational theme and performed by professional company. Due to the limit of funding, there are usually only 3–4 performers in each play. The ideal number of audience is approximately 30-40 students. The play can be staged outside classrooms, in activity rooms, school halls, anywhere on campus, or theatre outside schools.

TIE is suitable to various age groups, ranging from junior primary to senior secondary students. TIE could investigate multiple kinds of questions in humanities, such as ethnicity, gender issues, slavery, war issues, etc. TIE is not “just” a performance but a well-designed teaching activity in which performers have to act and teach. This is why the performer are called teacher actor and how TIE differentiates itself from other sorts of plays. Before the performance begins, teacher-actors would lead students to discuss topics in focus and provide them with sufficient information with illustration. This is to help students have a better grasp of the play that follows. During the performance, teacher-actors continue to challenge the audience and invites them to contemplate on the drama from various perspectives. There is usually a follow-up discussion after the play which involves either work-sheet or group discussion. Participants discuss the characters and report to others. The discussion aims at consolidating what the students learn from the drama and prompts them to introspect.

Audience’s participation

In the TIE, students are allowed to participate and interact with the development of the plot. Up to a point as the plot unfolds the character in the play would encounter certain difficulties and audiences are encouraged to contemplate on the issue. The difficulties usually involve dilemma and the actors would jump out of the play and ask for suggestions from the audience. It would also be possible that audience, the students, would be invited to participate, act along, and face the difficulties with the actors together. Therefore, the structure of TIE has to be flexible and the demands for actors are extremely high. The actors have to be able to give impromptu performance because the different opinions from the audience would often give rise to different endings.

The essence of TIE is that audience could participate actively. John O’Toole, a scholar of British Drama TIE divides it into three modes according to the degree of participation from the audience: 1.) extrinsic participation, the simplest mode, in which participants stay behind after the play and engage in discussion with the actors to discuss the drama. 2.) peripheral participation, in which audience are invited into scenarios or asked invited to answer a question or critique. However, their participation would not affect the development of the plot. 3.) integral participation, in which audience are invited onto the stage and every of their decisions would affect the fate of the actors. It would also influence how the story develops. From the perspective of the effectiveness of education, integral participation is the best among the three but is also the most difficult to be carried out. Participating students have to be serious and their schools also need to cultivate the culture of drama learning.


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