.. our fellow classmates. The objective given to us was to observe your own hand using all seven senses, i.e. sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, beauty and humour. I had never before taken so much time to explore any part of myself.
In the past, I had always considered my hands as small and wrinkly, in fact I find all hands revolting. To me, hands had always been the filthiest part of the body, as they consistently were exposed to all kinds of germs. My hands were especially ugly. I had crosshatched lines covering my palms. During this exercise, I stared intently at my hands for a good ten minutes, following the lines up and down the palm, taking detours on the smaller lines; it looked like the road map of a large metropolitan city. I took time to notice that my hands were soft and smooth, the pads of my fingers were fleshy, but the bones of my fingers were pronounced and stiff.
I noticed the difference between the first joint of one finger I had broken and one that I had not. When I listened to my hand, it sounded like the ocean. It was then that I discovered that my hand was no longer a hand, but a seashell instead. All along, I thought that my hand was ugly and useless, but drama had helped me to overcome my prejudices to see that I truly had something beautiful. This also occurred when I had the opportunity to compare my hand with someone else’s.
We told each other the story of our hands, and I actually could see the tree and its leaves on her hand. We were using drama to learn more about each other and to correct any prejudices we may have had against the other. The other exercise we participated in also occurred near the beginning of the semester. One of each pair of students was blindfolded and the other had to lead them around the vicinity, exploring familiar territory in a different light. I led my partner to the reservoir to walk through the grass and to explore the stone walls along Elm.
I had always considered the ‘res’ to be a dangerous place; somewhere I should never walk through at night. This time however, while leading my partner under archways and along the bike path, I discovered things I had never seen before. In the alcoves, there were large stone columns and intricate spider webs as large as picture windows. We found a tiny ditch filled with beautifully coloured leaves running alongside the field. What was even more wonderful was that she was discovering all that I was, but without seeing them. When I took off her blindfold, she could not believe where she had just been.
My turn was next to be blindfolded. My partner led me down Main Street to Elm through the long grass at the side of the road. We then walked along Elm, taking a detour through the slight embankment leading up to the apartment buildings. I felt a number of seemingly foreign objects, including a bubble-like structure which I later found out was a window, and some sweet smelling flowers. On a regular day, I would walk by this area at least four times and never before had I seen the things I had just explored with six of my senses.
Drama had helped me to see my surroundings in a different light, in fact without seeing at all. What I had established previously as an ugly building with an overgrown lawn became a refuge for Mother Nature in the middle of an urban apartment complex. Drama had truly broken my preconceived notions to show something beautiful. Drama is a very strong force in my life; it has determined the course of my development as a child. It is unfortunate however, that drama has not always existed in the way we know it as today.
Agreed, throughout history there has always been some form of dramatic expression, but drama as an educational tool is a fairly recent development. In the early 1950s, a man named Peter Slade wrote a book entitled Child Drama. The world was changing; people’s perceptions were changing. Children were finally seen as people who needed to be nurtured, directed, guided. Unfortunately, there were still some groups who felt that the traditional outlook (drama with an audience) was the way to go.
Slade was advocating drama for personal development. He stated that he sees formal theatre as a final stage in a child’s development(Bolton 22). Many traditionalists extrapolated from this statement that he was anti-theatre. He was not anti-theatre, he merely felt that not all activities had to be performed; some were for self-exploration only. He wanted to turn away from the formalised styles designed to make all children sound like ‘little adults’ and turn back to the natural direction that children wanted to take.
Slade stood for ‘personal circles’ and ‘child-centred activity’ and individualisation. It was not until Dorothy Heathcote came along that the focus went back to the importance of the collective experience and in doing so brought again to the fore the possibility of group members becoming united in their shared response to dramatic symbols(Bolton 31). Dorothy Heathcote concentrated on the material objects that the drama was based on. She took a scientific approach; to her the material objects of the world provide the common source of the scientist’s view of knowledge (Bolton 59). Content is very important to her; the action must be focused on some topic or object.
The child will be aware of the object and by examining and exploring it, he/she will celebrate it. Brian Way, another celebrated dramatist, has a different view of drama and development from Dorothy Heathcote. He is very close associate of Peter Slade, and hence their styles are similar. Way tried to educate teachers to understand that children were capable of more than just clowning around on a stage. They could reach into themselves and explore feelings such as sorrow and pain.
There are four things that Brian Way concentrated on: (1) the individual, (2) exercises, (3) expanding horizons of what may be included in a drama lesson and (4) intuition. Some teachers who felt as if they had to train each child by itself and who subsequently ignored the group unfortunately misconstrued his work on the importance of the individual. Way included in his books a number of exercises that teachers could use as a starting point for their classes. These exercises consisted of instructions that the teacher would continually give to the students which put the teacher almost entirely in control, it also invites a particular kind of mental disposition from the participants(Bolton 48). He also strove to include a number of topics into creative drama, in order to teach the children about as many aspects of life as possible.
He incorporates all these ideas into one phrase, his definition of the function of drama: [leading] the enquirer to moments of direct experience, transcending mere knowledge, enriching the imagination, possibly touching the heart and soul as well as the mind(Way 1). I believe that Way’s definition of drama is the one I most agree with. For me, drama has always allowed me to become characters that I would never play in real life. Play-acting has made me more creative; I can use my imagination to its full potential, as I no longer feel threatened by an audience. I have always found play-acting and other creative drama exercises to be therapeutic whenever I was distressed.
By interacting with others in the group I have developed an appreciation for the mind and for the spirit. My view of society has changed; each one of us has a place in it, and it is up to the individual to define that place, however it is the duty of the group to adapt to each individual. This is the only way to lead a successful and happy life outside of the classroom, in the real world. Bibliography Bolton, Gavin. Drama as Education: An argument for placing Drama at the centre of the curriculum.
London: Longman Group Limited, 1984. McGregor, Lynn, Maggie Tate, and Ken Robinson. Learning Through Drama. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1977. Slade, Peter.
Child Drama. London: University of London Press Ltd., 1954 Way, Brian. Development Through Drama. London: Longman Group Limited, 1967.