Written by Administrator Gordon Hensley
Friday, 05 February 2010 03:12
What is Social Drama?
Awareness drama is best, from my experience, with children in fourth grade or higher. This work is also referred to as drama for social change, theatre of the oppressed, and multicultural and social awareness drama. The underlying intention of the work is to enlighten your students and to provoke an empathy, or "feeling with," for the characters. Some topics that lend themselves to this type of creative drama work include fear, dating, alcohol and drugs, money, academics, independence, social status, name-calling, anger management, self-confidence, confrontation, power issues, negativity management, and almost any concern that we have.
The biggest advantage to acting out our problems is that we can, in drama, rewind and take a closer look or try again. This prepares us for real-life situations, and helps us understand why people do many of the things we often don't understand. In this method of drama, the leader helps students play out oppressions and solutions by facilitating a scenario.
In my recent work with a fourth grade class, I have discovered that many children know the answers to their own problems, they just need to forum their responses. By putting ideas together, one can build a repertoire of ways to deal with real life. Awareness drama provides a safe environment for exploration, dialogue, and "practice" for real life.
Why should my students use Social Drama?
Overall, this style leans toward social work, but you and your students can really get a lot out of it. It offers something different for everyone. If you're uncomfortable doing this work with your students, a great way to do this is to get volunteers from the community to be your protagonist and antagonist. Remember that its exploration, not acting!
Where does Social Drama fit into my curriculum?
Anywhere! Many areas are addressed by social drama. Social skills are a good place to start with younger students, then you may want to move on to exploring current events, or subject areas with social themes such as politics, geography, science (modern medicine, etc.), or other areas.
How do I start?
Michael Rohd's Theatre for Community, Conflict & Dialogue is a worthy encapsulation of this style of creative drama. His break-down makes understanding awareness drama easily understandable. The main components of this work are:
Energy and Focus Work
This work helps the group focus on the goal of the class. This helps determine the mindset of the students to make the following work more meaningful. Energy and focus work includes theatre games and their applications to real life situations. An example would be how the common children's game "red light/green light" is an analogy to friends betraying friends behind each other's backs.
Trust work is entirely about building an ensemble, a group. Many camp games are trust games, as their goal is similar-to build a community.
Bridge work includes discussions, images, ideas, and issues to identify core issues for dialogue and reenactment.
Improvisation is based on the idea that the mind is a muscle. By "making it up as you go," you strengthen your mind and reinforce proper responses to situations. In an improvised scene, everyone must accept the circumstances and feed the moment to keep it alive. It is important to keep improvisations based on real people in this work. When a student throws out something unrealistic (like flying away to escape an oppressive act) simply say "that's magic." There is no magic in real life!
The scenario that your students choose to enact should be real. The goal of this work is to propose what can be done to stop the oppression. There should be a good person (the protagonist), and a bad person (the antagonist). These two people (or persons) should have a confrontation or should show the oppression realistically. The class can then propose ideas on how to overcome the oppression. The protagonist is switched out and replaced often. Students should try their idea, rather than explain it. This is all about the protagonist. This process is also called forum theatre.
CHECKLIST FOR AN ACTIVATING SCENE
- a believable situation
- a structured scene (not scripted, but planned)
- a moment of decision, a clear time to decide what to do
- a clear relationship, intention, and circumstance
- a clear conflict
- a protagonist the audience/class can identify with
- a realistic antagonist with a strong flaw (not a funny villain)
- an antagonist that does not change
- a clear idea of what both parties want
- a clear idea that the protagonist has inner thoughts/voices
This type of drama can be tricky to work with. The secret lies in knowing your students and keeping them involved and well managed. The first few times you try this it may be a bumpy ride. You will get better with practice. As facilitator, be energetic, be a good listener, try not to judge, value all ideas, move the process forward, and never force anyone to participate (they may be very sensitive to the subject matter!). The only way to get something out of this work is to ask lots and lots of questions. Remember to promote answers instead of give them. Here are some tricks of the trade to use during the progression of your activating material:
Freeze- By calling out freeze, all the motion stops. This gives a chance to observe the images of oppression, and to manage the session.
Internal Monologue- By freezing and asking the players to "speak their minds" the class can get an idea of what is going on in both minds.
Images- Before, during, or afterwards, sculpt the people in the scene to physically take on their attitudes or beliefs. These images last in young minds.
Guardian Angels- Ask students to go tell the protagonist something to help them out.
Interviewing- Let students interview the protagonist and antagonist to deepen their understanding of different perspectives.
What does Social Drama look like in a lesson plan?
Using Social Drama in a lesson may look something like this:
Ask players to get in pairs and develop a tableau that shows a bully taunting another student. Have half the group display their tableaus simultaneously in a "sculpture gallery" while the other half walks around and observes. Ask observers to create titles or a line of dialogue appropriate to the tableaus. Switch groups so the other half presents/observes.
Discuss what thoughts and feelings may go through the target's mind when bullied. Then discuss the possible roots of or motivations for the bully's actions. Finally, discuss what kinds of "bullying" actions occur (e.g., hitting, demanding money, hair pulling).
In the same pairs, players then develop a 15 second vignette with dialogue that brings the tableau to life. Or, players may choose to show the bully in a "slice of life" moment with another character (e.g., parent, friend, sibling, teacher). Provide 5 minutes of development. Players then show their work to the rest of the group-bullies intimidating their targets first, then the bullies with other characters.
Discuss the interpretations participants made from the presentations, and what insights might have been gained about the bully.
If group motivation is high, "hot seat" one or more players willing to dialogue in role as a bully and have participants ask him/her questions (e.g., "Why did you hurt her?" "What's your family like at home?" "What kind of grades do you get at school?" "What do you want to be when you grow up?"). Discuss the interpretations people made from the "interview." Then, "hot seat" a target and interview him/her.
Ask players to review the scenes with the bully and his/her target. Choose one of the scenes participants resonate with most (not necessarily the "best" performed one) and brainstorm possible solutions for the target to employ to stop the bullying. Instead of talking about them, though, participants replace the target and play out their solutions. Depending on the age group of children and improvisational skills of the players, explore the leader playing in role.
What educational standards are met by Social Drama?
National Theatre Standard and Benchmarks
Understands the context in which theatre, film,
television, and electronic media are performed today
as well as in the past
Level 2 (Grade K-4)
Identifies and compares similar characters and
situations in stories/dramas from and about various
Understands the various settings and reasons for
creating dramas and attending theatre, film, television,
and electronic media productions
Knows ways in which theatre reflects life
Level 3 (Grade 5-8)
Understands similarities and differences among
archetypal characters (e.g., the trickster, the villain,
the warrior, the superhero) and situations in dramas
from and about various cultures and historical periods
Understands the knowledge, skills, and discipline needed
to pursue careers and avocational opportunities in
theatre, film, television, and electronic media
Understands the emotional and social impact of
dramatic performances in one's own life, in the
community, and in other cultures
Knows ways in which theatre reflects a culture
Knows how culture affects the content and production
values of dramatic performances
Understands how social concepts such as cooperation,
communication, collaboration, consensus, self-esteem,
risk taking, sympathy, and empathy apply in theatre
Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
Understands how similar themes are treated in drama
from various cultures and historical periods
Understands ways in which theatre can reveal universal
Understands similarities and differences among the lives,
works, and influence of representative theatre artists in
various cultures and historical periods
Knows cultural and historical influences on American
theatre and musical theatre
Understands ways in which personal and cultural
experiences can affect an artist's dramatic