It dawned on us the other day that it has been a whopping two years since we graduated. Distant memories of beaming tutors resurfaced along with chuckles at the odd mortar board wedged in the trees as we all recklessly chucked our foolish hats skywards on the day of our graduation. On venturing out into the big bad world, you have the sudden realisation that the student loan is no more, non-stop partying is probably no longer advisable and work beckons – proper grown up stuff. So as we watch a new generation start on their journey out of the world of formal education we thought we would look at the relationship between the working world of theatre and education.
In an explicit link between education and theatre, two of the Filskit ladies have found themselves teaching drama to children of varying ages. Introducing drama into the mainstream education has for some time been celebrated for its alternative and holistic approach to helping children learn, gain confidence and develop social skills. In fact, drama is being increasingly used in schools as a tool to assist with the curriculum. Game-play around principles of history or science seems to work as a fun way to encourage children’s engagement with the subject.
From working with younger pupils, the value of teaching drama is clear to see. With collaboration, developing their creative imagination, physical exercise and confidence building, the list of benefits is long. There are countless articles on literacy and numerous programmes at theatres nationwide, the Lyric Hammersmith for instance, that have a strong track record for offering young people the opportunity to learn and train in a theatrical environment.
By the time children reach secondary education, drama is being taught as a separate subject. Teaching this age group you can quickly discover that it is not only the starry-eyed, stage school protégés that succeed in these classes, but those who may cause issues in other classes. For some students the restraints of sitting behind a desk and focusing on the board can prove to be a never-ending struggle – however, given strict boundaries with the freedom to move and be expressive can result in some surprising results. It can transform a hatred of Shakespeare or poetry into a love, when the text is lifted off the page and transformed into something tangible and accessible.
Looking now at our own experiences of drama at school, we can already note the moment that the interest in theatre was unlocked and encouraged a determination to make theatre our profession. This may be a school play, a local drama group or even the GCSE or A level in the subject. However, I think it is fair to say that the most influential time must have to have taken place whilst at Rose Bruford College. The time spent in that small part of suburbia is responsible for how we have decided to conduct our professional lives.
Before starting on The European Theatre Arts course, I don’t think any of us expected to start up our own company upon graduation. It is probably also true that we didn’t realise that those other girls sat next to us in our first class would not only be long-term friends, but be creative partners and business colleagues. Five years down the line and we are suddenly aware of how valuable our studies were in influencing both our creative decisions and how we conduct ourselves as a company. The ensemble attitudes of the course, alongside the make-do and mend principles of devising, have resulted in us being willing to turn our hands to the many tasks of running a company. It encouraged independence and resilience, all qualities we have been commended on in our professional experience, both in a theatrical world and in the day jobs.
It is safe to say that here at Filskit Theatre we are great supporters of creative learning for all ages. Our positive experiences of drama at school spurred us on to further education and starting our own company. However, the benefits of creativity in education do not have to be restricted to a career in theatre – without creativity, without original ideas and people thinking “what if”, things would never move forward. Creativity in education helps to shape the inventors and innovators of tomorrow, and, of course, those future theatre makers.