The play’s the thing

The difference between theatre and classroom drama is that in theatre everything is contrived so that the audience gets the kicks.  In the classroom, the participants get the kicks.

So wrote the acclaimed drama in education specialist, Dorothy Heathcote in Drama as a learning medium; Wagner (1999). But we shouldn’t just take Dorothy’s word for this.  The three girls in Gaza who took part in this play that was performed at the Sharek conference at Westminster University in November (and last week at the British Council Young Learners’ conference in Santiago, Chile)  have each made a short video talking about how they think they have benefitted from the experience (see below).

 

 

 

And if you’d like to see the play that they are referring to, you can see it here….

 

 

Of course this is about working with a play that was written by somebody else. Learners writing and performing their own plays will bring even more benefits. It’s been very interesting to hear from many of the teachers in Palestine who’ve been helping their students with their own plays  for our play writing and play performing competition about the value of this process.

We had more than 80 eligible entries for the competition and our panel of 24 judges have been busy watching the videos, reading the scripts, and attempting the very difficult, and unenviable, task of picking a winner.

So next Thursday will be the moment we have all been waiting for, when we will be announcing the winners on this blog. The quality of the acting and the writing has far exceeded our expectations. For this reason the panel of judges have really struggled to come to a decision. But in a sense every single participant is a winner. My own very humble attempts to act in Arabic have certainly made me feel like a winner!

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11 thoughts on “The play’s the thing

  1. It’s interesting what Zaheya said above about starting to notice the English around her on signs etc after doing the play. I think in a way the same thing happened to me after doing the play in Arabic. It’s as if my ears have suddenly been opened to Arabic grammar and vocabulary patterns. Since learning the lines and performing the play, it seems like every thing I hear in Arabic has some element of the Arabic in the play in it. Somehow I didn’t really notice it before.
    I’m also noticing opportunities to use the language from the play in real conversations. A few days after doing it I found myself stuck in a lift in Gaza because of a power cut. I was able to turn to the people around me and say ‘Ehna mahbusin hawn!’ . They gave me some funny looks 🙂

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  2. Hi Nick! Thank you very much for the post and for your endless support for teachers and students in Palestine.

    The most interesting part about this experience is that my students are learning the language smoothly without being under the pressure of compulsory learning inside the classroom. When we CHOOSE to learn something, we do it passionately. We will simply enjoy it, and if you enjoy doing something, learning will be definitely guaranteed!

    I’m not saying that students are not learning inside the classroom. Of course, they are learning for the sake of passing exams 🙂 Actually, I’m talking about the quality of knowledge and experiences they get from doing such drama activities. Learning the language through authentic contexts is one of the benefits that students talked about in the videos. However, there are many other things which students have gained from rehearsing, doing the play in a conference, sharing it with a school from Finland and recently performing the play in a conference in Chile via Zoom. I think they expressed themselves clearly in the videos.
    As a teacher, I would say that my students have developed a very distinctive sense of responsibility. I introduced the play to them and gave them the script, and they were responsible enough to do what it needs to create a beautiful work. They shared their ideas, cooperate together, understand each other and interact to come out with a nice performance.

    Teaching English is no longer about memorizing vocabulary and learning grammar, it’s more about being involved and active.

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    1. Thanks a lot for your comment Amal. You make a very interesting point about how doing a play can be about much more than just learning grammar and vocabulary. In 18th Century Britain masses of people were sent to Australia as convicts – often for very minor crimes. A governor of the colony, a man called Arthur Philip, decided that it would be good for the convicts if they acted in a play. His motives for this were as follows…
      ‘“The theatre is an expression of civilisation. We belong to a great country, which has spawned great playwrights: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson… the convicts will be speaking a refined, literate language and expressing sentiments of a delicacy they are not used to.”
      Of course it’s highly questionable how ‘civilised’ a country is when it steals a country from one people and sends it’s unwanted people there to populate it. It’s also questionable whether speaking in somebody else’s words – using ‘refined literate language’ is a useful thing to do at all.
      But the convicts did put on a play. You can read about it in ‘Our Country’s Good’ by Timberlake Wertenbaker. And the play did have benefits for the convicts – but not really the ones that Philip intended. What happened was that doing a play created a community of practice. It empowered the convicts and gave them self worth and it made them feel that they had a place in the world. This is worth a lot I’d say.

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      1. The question is why acting empowered the convicts and helped them to re-build their self-esteem. How could they become part of a “community of practice”? They simply moved from being stuck in negative feelings into letting them flow safely through acting.

        “All the world’s a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players;”
        Yes! Life is a big stage, we are the players and what we go through every day is the play itself. However, life doesn’t offer you many real chances to express yourself fully as acting in written plays does. Performing plays can be a very safe way to express different negative or even positive emotions. Being able to release emotions and feelings is the key, or let’s say the first step, of creating mentally healthy individuals.

        And we don’t need to use a “refined, literate language” to speak our minds. We just need a few arranged words, a theater and people with clean ears 🙂 Refined or bad language, it doesn’t always matter.

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        1. Thanks Amal. Yes, I think doing a play is a natural extension (and perhaps a more structured version) of the way children play normally anyway when they are little. Much of this play is in an imagined world and I think children need a format in which to explore this imagined world just as much as they grow up – even as adults. And especially in a place like Gaza.

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  3. Hi! My name’s Batool Sager and I performed in The Screen. I loved this play very much and I enjoyed doing it a lot with my friends. I have learned many things from this experience and I think that these things have influenced my life. I’d like to thank my teacher, Mrs Amal and Mr. Nick for the play, efforts and interviews. Thank you very much.

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    1. Hi Batool. Thanks a lot for your comment. It was a real pleasure and an honour to act alongside you in the Arabic/English version of ‘The Screen’. I’ve learned lots of things from the experience too and thanks for helping me with my Arabic pronunciation.

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  4. Marhaba! I’m really glad I did the play. I hope the play reaches the whole world so that they learn about what’s happening here and support us.

    Salma

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  5. Nice experiance to show the outer world our situation in Palestine .l enjoyed it so much , my students did too .our great thanks for every body who helped us .

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