Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Power of Poetry


 I was very interested to read that this year’s Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to a poet. The ABC news reported last week that the recipient was 77-year-old LouiseGluck who is a professor of English at Yale University. As a drama teacher, I love the idea that a poet is at the forefront of literary recognition.

Since its inception in 1901, 36 poets have accepted this prestigious award. Louise Gluck was the very first American female poet to do so. She joins the ranks of such classic authors and poets as T.S. Eliot, William Yeats and Rudyard Kipling.

Poetry is not only a wonderful way to nurture literacy in children, it is also a highly effective tool for drama teachers to use to explore many of the elements ofdrama, such as timing, rhythm, contrast, symbol and mood.

Storytelling is an integral part of drama education. We teach children to tell stories using their bodies, their faces, their emotions and their voices. It is a way to explore aspects of life that are hard to communicate. Poetry is a beautiful and unique form of storytelling. The best poems are often those that closely reflect the poet’s own life and significant experiences. The ABC news article reported that Louise Gluck was praised for her ability to clearly strive for clarity in relation to her childhood and family relationships.

It is hard to deny that listening to poetry being read or performed aloud is the most fulfilling way to experience it. I challenge you to read some of the following words of one of Louise Gluck’s poems – “The Silver Lily” – aloud. First, read it in your head, and then enjoy reading aloud her simple language that includes rich symbolism and beautiful imagery.

In spring, when the moon rose, it meant

time was endless. Snowdrops

opened and closed, the clustered

seeds of the maples fell in pale drifts.

White over white, the moon rose over the birch tree.

And in the crook, where the tree divides,

leaves of the first daffodils, in moonlight

soft greenish-silver.

The more we read beautiful words of poetry, the more we connect with the poet and understand the underlying symbols that they represent. Poetry performance in drama classes is a beautiful way to develop sensitivity in students, to help them interpret different styles of language, and to give them a love and appreciation for quality literature.

You can enjoy many more of Louise Gluck’s poems here.

Caption: Louise Gluck receives the Nobel Prize for literature from Barak Obama (Source: abc.net.au)


Monday, October 5, 2020

Drama for Life




What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a drama student? A nerd who is mad about Shakespeare? Someone who has lofty aspirations to make it big in Hollywood? A weirdo who is obnoxiously eccentric?

There is so much more to drama than these common drama kid stereotypes. There are many, many life skills that can be learned by taking part in drama and theatre classes.

Here are my top four life skills that children learn through drama classes:

Communication

Research has shown that drama is one of the most effective tools for improving communication skills, both verbally and non-verbally. Not only are drama students encouraged to communicate clearly and confidently, but they are also required to demonstrate the interpersonal skills of listening and focusing on what other people are saying.

Communication – the human connection – is the key
 to personal and career success.

- Paul J. Meyer

Empathy

Teachers have found that drama classes offer safe opportunities for students to genuinely empathise with others. Theatre classes have been referred to as gyms for empathy: students develop their muscles of compassion and understanding as they engage with different types of people or perform as characters who have lives that are often vastly different from their own.

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms,
 the most immediate way in which a human can share with another
 the sense of what it is to be a human being.

- Oscar Wilde

Improvisation

Improvisation is the skill of creating a character, idea, action or scene without pre-planning. Students learn to trust their intuition and to develop the creativity that allows them to come up with ideas in an instant. Through improvisation, students gain confidence in expressing their ideas in an atmosphere where there is no failure. They face their fears by working independently, or they develop teamwork by accepting the ideas of others in their group.

The theatre is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental.
It’s so much like life.

- Arthur Miller

Teamwork

Drama students are encouraged to value each group member’s unique gifting, whether they are loud and naturally confident or shy and insecure. Working in a group requires students to trust each other, to put themselves out there, and to know that their team will accept what they say and back them up. Being part of a dramatic production is similar in many ways to being an active part of a family or a business. Each part is important: the actors, the lighting, the music, the set, the costumes.

Great theatre is about challenging how we think
 and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to.

- Willem Dafoe

A drama student may never have aspirations to end up on Broadway or in Hollywood. They may never even set foot on the stage of a local theatre.  But interaction in drama classes will help them to develop life skills that will equip them to succeed as the stars of their very own lives.

Movies will make you famous;
 Television will make you rich;
 but theatre will make you good.

- Terrence Mann

Thursday, October 1, 2020

All About the Drama

 I remember my very first speech and drama eisteddfod as if it were yesterday. I had memorised a poem by Lydia Pender called “Toadstools”. I walked onto the stage, said the title in a stilted voice, then stood there…frozen…Somehow I managed to quickly rattle off the words and run offstage, crying into the arms of my mum. I was humiliated and vowed to never put myself through that pain again.

My mum had enrolled me into drama classes when I was 11 years old, shortly before this terrifying experience. I was painfully, painfully shy and needed encouragement to come out of my shell. In social settings, I would allow my mother to answer for me. At school or church events, I would follow my brother around like a puppy. When I did speak, it was a quiet mumble.

I am so thankful that my mother gently encouraged me to continue with my lessons, even though the performing caused me great fear for so long. After this first eisteddfod experience, I went on to perform in many more competitions, concerts, and exams. The terror slowly subsided, and performing started to bring me great joy.

Over the years, drama has given me so many opportunities. I went on to not only excel at eisteddfods, but I also developed the confidence to pursue many other goals. These included taking leadership roles at kids’ camps, Sunday schools and beach missions; becoming a teacher; teaching and performing with a local theatre group; and enjoying my role as a national-level BMX commentator.  The confidence and skills that I developed as a drama student are currently impacting every area of my life.

I have had the pleasure of working with some extremely talented and confident students since I started teaching over twenty years ago. I feel a great sense of achievement when they tick off goals or win awards. However, my greatest motivation will always be to help empower that young child - and there is always at least one – who sits off to the side of lessons and feels unseen and unheard, and who runs off the stage when she has finished her poem and flings herself into the arms of her mother, vowing that she will never go through that pain again.

The Power of Poetry

 I was very interested to read that this year’s Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to a poet. The ABC news reported last week that the...