An Approach that Connects Deeply

Its August 1st, I am in Montreal and attending a workshop. We are in groups of 5 and it is time to open up and share stories of our childhood. I pause, I look to the corner of my mind and in an instant, Teresa my doll pops vividly into my head.  “I poured all my love into that doll.  She was my little precious Teresa and I loved her and she was taken from me. In an instant, my little friend was lost. ” My group of 5 develops a short play about my story.  It pulls at my heartstrings as I was 5 years old when my favourite doll was so worn and ripped and then one day I couldn’t find her.

The workshop weekend I am attending is about story development.  One person plays the mother.   I teach her how to say good night in Dutch, “Welt rustin, Margaret,” she says each night.  After the door closes, I sing a Dutch lullaby as I cuddle my doll every night to fall asleep.  As the play continues, time passes and I get a bit older…the doll is so loved, she is falling apart.   One morning, after looking everywhere for Teresa, I cuddle the blanket and sing one soft line of the lullaby while curled in a ball.  The play ends.

This is part of a large conference, Association for Theater in Higher Education (ATHE), where I love to become a student again.  Theatre professors from universities mostly across the U.S. and Canada share their expertise with each other.  To me, this is my playground.  I get to explore…to be self-expressed using my words and my body to communicate my feelings and ideas.

I also taught a workshop with a U.S. colleague sharing my skills.  “Character:  Accessing Authentic Memory Experience through Process Drama” is a workshop we created for acting teachers and directors to enable their actors to develop memory experiences to draw from as they develop their characters.  The process drama (or educational drama) strategies are very helpful for an actor in this process.

I am looking forward to going to another conference in a few days, American Association of Theater Education (AATE).   I will hear keynote speakers about brain based learning and go to workshops to “play” again and learn about my craft.  This time I will be surrounded by teachers, theatre directors, playwrights and others interested in theatre education.  I will learn about devising or collective creations, as it is sometimes called.  I love it because it uses the whole mind and body.  Improvisation is a large part of the creation process and although it holds an element of risk, it is very freeing in an emotionally supportive environment.

I use it all at school.  As an educational consultant, I love supporting teachers to bring the curriculum to life.  I love watching those students (and then their teachers) get excited about their learning! Their eyes light up and they learn deeply about the theme (other subjects).  Their writing is expressive and passionate after experiencing their learning from inside the story…weather it is a passage in Language Arts, a History lesson, Math or Science.  This is truly differentiated instruction and assessment as students have the opportunity to express their learning in multiple ways.  It is playful, fun and uses multiple ways of learning, which totally lines up with current brain research for excellent pedagogy.