As a teaching artist, director, and drama educator I have been an integral part of delivering learning experiences where Drama is integrated in secondary school' programs such as Queensland Theatre's The Scene Project (TSP). This initiative can serve as powerful, pedagogic, life-learning model for young people, many of whom do not profess to wanting to become famous. The skills and knowledge gained through participating in these kinds of dramatic and theatrical learning experiences can be applied to any field.
This phenomenon is yet to be researched for its impact on stakeholders and participants, specific to a contemporary theatre-making initiative, and this is essentially what my research project seeks to interrogate.
The field of this research for this DCA is Drama as an educational tool, and particularly the sub-field of Theatre/Drama for Young People, or Educational Drama. This is defined by a UK pioneer in educational drama, Dorothy Heathcote in Drama as a Learning Medium (Betty Jane Wagner,1979) as the conscious employment of the elements of Drama to educate; to literally bring out what children already know but do not yet know they know (Heathcote in Wagner 13). Drama provides participants a space to process and test out their experiences through storytelling. This fictional space is where active, participatory and dynamic learning happens, as the US educational theorist David Kolb states: "Knowledge is continuously derived from and tested out in the experiences of the learner" (Kolb 27). Kolb theorises that humans tell stories in order to convert their experiences into a sharable format: the sum of our experiences are organised by our minds through story.
While Australia typically contributes highly to the scholarship on the pedagogic field of drama in schools (see Busby, Freebody & Rajendran, 2022; Google Scholar) from my research so far, there is a dearth of current and contemporary research undertaken around participatory based theatre programs offered by theatre companies in this country. Because, in my experience, the participating youth clientele do not typically pursue a career in the dramatic arts, the long-term effects of their participation in State-theatre company programs, such as TSP, have been ignored.
The challenge that this project, and many Australian theatre and education projects face is a high cost versus the need for programs to be cost accessible. This is where Federal and State arts subsidy plays an important role. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Sue Giles from Polyglot Theatre stated: "There's now only three theatres for young audience companies and four youth arts companies federally funded," "In 2007, there were 21 federally funded youth arts companies. So, the decrease over the last decade has been massive (Carmody 2020). Only by providing data and research of a broad cross section of participants from across the state will this project's position prove sustainable.
For more information, please email the Graduate Research School (GRS) or for the zoom link, please phone the GRS 07 46 31 1088.