Download the Theatre
The Fox TV series “Glee”—which both celebrates and sends up the world of high school performing arts— became a very popular show on TV, especially among teenagers. Part drama, part comedy, it captures not only the joys of performing but also the struggle to fit in. Other shows have followed about teens and creating a community through theatre
It’s that desire to belong, to connect with others in a shared experience, that draws so many students to their school’s glee club or drama club. Anyone who’s ever performed in or worked backstage on a production can tell you that the process of preparing for an audience is full of community-building activities. Theatre has a unique power to unite a diverse group of people in a shared purpose.
Teachers looking for a way to engage their students can take a cue from the theatre—and integrate some behind-the-scenes exercises to encourage personal development, build relationships between students of different races and cultural backgrounds, and create opportunities to discuss hard issues.
Here are just three of the many ways you can bring the theatre into the classroom:
Use theatrical warm-up exercises to increase focus, energy and creative thought.
Consider a game like “Take the Pulse.” Here’s how it works: Form a circle and ask everyone to “throw something in” that they want to be rid of. Go around the circle, one at a time, voicing these distractions. It could be an argument with a parent, anxiety over a test, or a falling out with a friend. After you’ve gone around the circle, ask everyone on the count of three to take a deep breath and, as they exhale, shoot their frustrated energy out into the center of the circle. Remind students that now they’ve let that distraction go and it’s time to focus on the work at hand.
Build bridges between students of different backgrounds using ensemble techniques.
A game like “Cultural Mapping” provides an active way to allow students to identify with each other according to various categories. To get started, designate four areas in the room as north, south, east and west. Offer up different categories, and ask students to move across the room to the landmark that represents their answer. Categories could be: How many languages do you speak? What kind of pets do you have? How many times have you moved in your life? Create new categories that draw out the diversity of your group and encourage dialogue among students.
Have students find their voice—and share their stories.
“Tour of a Place” is a game that opens the door to storytelling by calling on imagination, memory and detail. Divide the group into pairs, and ask each person to close her eyes and imagine a place that is very special, such as a favorite vacation spot or a room at home. Invite students to remember details, such as colors, smells, and light. Then each person gets to take their partner on a tour of that place. Have each person walk around the room, pointing out aspects of their place and describing it to their partner.
When we share stories like this with each other, we enter into a process that can allow us to see the world in new ways, unpack fears and misunderstandings and build community.
Theatre is a powerful way to bring people together. Even when we feel different from each other, or fear we have nothing to say, these games can break down barriers and build community.
For a complete free resource theatre games in the classroom, or to find more lessons and free videos about storytelling and community-building, please visit RaceBridges Studio.