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  • PART B – Issues on Audiovisual Education

    135

    4.48 Psychosis Thomas Bürger, Lotta Auerswald

    “To play needs much work.

    But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work any more.

    A play is a play.”

    Peter Brook 1

    Introduction

    Peter Brook has described theatre as a journey into mankind.2 From my experience as a drama teacher to date, I can say that Brook’s definition identifies an absolutely fundamental aspect of engaging schoolchildren in drama. In a school set- ting, drama can offer schoolchildren at completely different levels the opportunity to embark on a journey of discovery – to discover themselves, their surroundings and their fellow human beings. The act of presenting themselves or of tak- ing on other roles is an important way for schoolchildren to experience the very essence of their being. At the same time, drama teaching aims to give actors the opportunity to devel- op freely as individuals and to initiate processes of personal creativity by encouraging as much self-awareness as pos- sible and creative group work.3 In theatrical performances schoolchildren empathise, using all their senses, and look for

    solutions – to role conflicts, for example.4 In this way, drama always provides an opportunity to broaden the spectrum of one’s own personality as well.

    Drama for schoolchildren means gathering countless new experiences through performing and, in the process, getting to know the other actors and themselves in a com- pletely new and very special way. Drama on the one hand is, of course, the fascination of becoming someone else, tak- ing on a new character and gaining a new personality. On the other hand, drama also allows pupils the freedom to be crazy, to break down taboos and to let their imagination run free once again. ‘It is drama that helps to break down old conventions. (...) It brings about creative restlessness, stirs up curiosity and fosters our imagination.’5

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    Drama means more than merely standing on a stage, being present in the role and reacting to the key points. It is not just the individual that counts; it is primarily about the in- teraction of the group, since this greatly affects the chances of creating an interesting and successful production.

    Drama is far more than simply putting on a play. Acting does not simply mean wearing costumes and learning a text by heart or standing on a stage saying the lines out loud. Theatre is about gathering new experiences, pushing back boundaries, experiencing change … and this is what makes the time spent in the drama group so valuable!6

    By employing a steady stream of new theatrical stimuli, it should be possible for schoolchildren to develop a creative and critical awareness. Drama is an art form which, above all, serves the eye and the ear. Therefore, it should enable the ac- tors to consciously choose and shape theatrical sign systems and eventually to discover their own performance styles and forms of creativity. It is important to approach the task without having everything established in your mind while it is going on but, instead, being open to respond to the impulses and interpretations that come from the group, to consider them as valuable additions, examine them and try them out.10 In fact, this attitude is just a minor venture, which teaches me to have faith in the pupils’ creative and artistic potential and reduces the burden on me as a drama teacher.

    Acting and working processes Working methods

    A year with the drama group at the Herderschule Kassel is divided into several phases (learning phase, exercises and design phase and an intensive rehearsal phase with the sub- sequent performance). The following sections will go into more detail about the different working phases of the drama group.*

    The drama group in the upper secondary level of the Gymnasium at Herderschule Kassel includes students from several grades and is a very mixed group (grades 11-13); the

    * The article refers to a school theatre production which was the result of theatre work during the school year 2009-2010 at Herder- schule Kassel and was performed in June 2010. The performance used a lot of new media and represented the state of Hessen at the National School Theatre Festival “Schultheater der Länder” in Nurem- berg in 2010. The theme of the Festival was “Theatre and New Me- dia”. (Editor’s note)

    Concept of drama teaching

    The starting point for my concept of drama teaching is the process of forming groups. As a drama teacher I see it as my task to support a large number of young people on the way towards becoming a group of people who trust one another and can experience physical contact without fear. The actors should first learn to trust themselves before they can express themselves with their whole body, using it to communicate with others and therefore gaining the trust and understand- ing of others.7 It is about fostering individual abilities and strengths with enthusiasm and developing creative team- work. Therefore, it is important to allow time for this initial phase in order to expand the individuals’ range of experi- ences and not to pigeonhole them as a particular type.8 With the aid of self-perception exercises and by using the body as a means of expression, through having one’s own body and movement experiences and observing those of others, one’s own possibilities for movement and expression are in- creased.9 These should all enable the actors to demonstrate presence and credible behaviour on the stage at a later date and to work towards a practical understanding of drama.

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    composition of the group changes annually, with new pupils from grade 11 joining us, school leavers moving on, and for- mer pupils continuing to help or to act. Rehearsals take place at the school one evening a week (6 pm to 8 pm). Rehearsing at that time has proved to be beneficial, since the break in between the normal school day and rehearsals means that taking part in the group becomes less like being at school.

    In the first months of a new year for the drama group (August to December) the primary focus is on getting the group ready for acting, enabling the participants to get to know each other and to establish trust between them. In the learning phase and over the course of many rehearsals which combine the seriousness and fun of acting, the group grows from pupils with very different acting experiences into a theatre company in which familiarity has been established, and the inhibitions about acting in front of the group quickly disappear. The actors discover their own limitations and how to go beyond them and learn to trust one another so that they can put on a play together. Besides experiencing inter- personal relationships through distance and closeness, this learning phase also encompasses experiencing boundaries and the special features of a movement space.11 Furthermore, by experiencing contact and the willingness to cooperate, the actors come to realise that it is not the individual that counts but rather the performance of the group as a whole.

    As the first few months of the academic year are spent undergoing intensive drama training with a focus on vocal, isolation, body and improvisation exercises, each actor is given the chance to experience and expand their own acting repertoire. An important aspect of this initial phase is, there-

    fore, to teach awareness, since ‘their ego and their body are an actor’s instruments.’12 Whether consciously or not, people constantly communicate with their body and drama is about transferring these unconscious processes into the realm of consciousness, and doing so artistically.13 In the process, an important objective is to make the actors aware of their own personal gestures, to help them understand their own body language and to learn to use their body as a means of ex- pression. This is in line with the established drama teaching systems of K. S. Stanislawski, M. Tschechow, J. Grotowski and others.14 As a consequence of this self-awareness, the actors can expand their physical, holistic awareness15 and as a result ‘dismantle and dissolve physical and mental inhibitions and barriers.’16

    Discovering and recognising space through movement encourages the actors to acquire an awareness of space, which is a vital aspect. The notion of space also involves the arrangement of fellow actors and the atmosphere that it cre- ates. Playing with movements in an empty space, with bodies and objects, with choral and movement-oriented elements is an important aspect of drama. The actors can try these out in the creative exercises, expand their individual artistic forms of expression and establish an acting repertoire that will be available to them later on when looking into the dramatisa- tion of the selected play. Meanwhile, the theatrical mindset of the actors will have been broadened.

    The work on the play is introduced via the decision on which play to stage, which always happens at the end of the first half of the year. The members of the group indepen- dently put forward proposals that they find interesting and

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    vote on them democratically in an additional session. The idea for a theatre production can be taken from very differ- ent sources, for instance from novels, dramas, films or origi-