The benefits for a child of taking on the responsibility of a role on stage and performing in front of a live audience cannot be underestimated. Learning to listen to others and wait your turn; becoming aware of how you appear to an audience (even just in the way you are standing, for example) and delivering your lines are all valuable skills.
Of course, not everyone wants to be an actor. But everyone at some stage in their life needs to be able to stand up in front of others and think on their feet. And if doing so comes as a bit of a shock when you are grown up it can be hugely debilitating. Whether it is making a speech at a friend’s wedding, presenting the pitch of your life to the dream client or just addressing a small gathering, the ability to do so without stumbling, freezing and totally stalling is crucial.
Drama can turn what might otherwise be an excruciating experience into a delight and show children that there can be fun in subjects and topics that they think of as boring and too difficult to approach. This is because drama is a unique teaching tool. There is an old saying that if you read a child some information they are more than likely to forget it. If you show them something in a demonstration, they might remember bits. But if you actually have them act it out, then they are likely to take it to heart and remember it for a long, long time. And have fun as well!
Drama engages children, makes them embrace another way of thinking, and another way of being. They are forced to think how the character they are playing feels, about his or her motivations and desires. This helps them in their own social situations, as they a build a sense of empathy and learn what drives other people.
Drama also helps children to discover a whole lot more about themselves.
Their minds wander and roam. Fantastical dreams suddenly become real through the magic of the stage. They and their friends and classmates are transported to other worlds, and their horizons are relentlessly pushed back in a voyage of imaginative exploration. It is a great emotional release.
No wonder it is so involving. In some instances drama can get through where other methods of education struggle to make an impact. I’ve worked in primary schools where children have been totally disengaged from their teacher, the classroom and learning in general. Approaching the topic through drama can overcome the restrictions and confines of a classroom and conventional teaching. The disaffected or disruptive often tune back in.
I certainly don’t preach (or practise) the theory that there is an actor inside everyone. Quite the opposite. The important thing to understand is that drama can help a confident performer go places and a shy person come out of their shell a little bit. Everything is done in a fun, safe and cosy space, where everyone can learn to try new things and express themselves in new ways without being judged. This is an environment which can really bring out the best in every child.
About the Author
Camilla de Quetteville
Bright Lights Drama
Camilla trained as a classical actress at the London Academy of Performing Arts. She co-founded Odd Sok Productions in 2004 which has seen sell-out shows on the Fringe circuit in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Camilla set up Bright Lights Drama in 2009 with Natalia Rawley, which incorporates half term and holiday workshops (play-in-a-day/morning), after-school drama clubs and birthday parties. The workshops are for 6-11yr olds and involve storytelling and encourage children to improvise. The story is read, the play is cast, rehearsed and then performed to parents - all in one session. The focus is on fun, teamwork, confidence-building and discovering that while on stage and in character ‘nothing is ever wrong’.
Camilla also runs workshops with Kids Company in primary schools across London, often teaching the syllabus through drama be it the story of Pompeii or a lesson in Healthy Eating. Additionally she works with children on improving public speaking, confidence and presentation on stage. Camilla still works as an actress and is now also Mother to 16 month old Hugh.
(BA (Hons), Equity Member, DBS)