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Are the performing arts useful? A response to a Newsroom article about the performing arts. (Part 2)

This is the second of three responses from my perspective on an article that discusses a possible end to NZ theatre and the performing arts, written by Emma Willis today from Newsroom.


Today's statement is in regard to the skills developed within Theatre programmes at universities and whether or not Drama is a useful subject to take at university.



See Emma Willis' article here:

Drama develops your communicative and collaborative skills which you can use in any work situation.
Drama develops your communicative and collaborative skills which you can use in any work situation.

Statement #2: Theatre is the gateway for collaborative skills.


Theatre education is inherently about relating to others, to other people involved in any production, as well as the characters in a production. It is grounded in dialogue and is all about listening. It’s a mode of learning that requires empathy and critical thinking. Theatre programmes in Aotearoa’s universities offer courses in subjects such as public speaking, presentation skills, and using theatre in the workplace, which appeal to a wide variety of students. Essentially theatre is a gateway for learning to respectfully work with others, to learn the art of creative collaboration.

My back story of the performing arts from a shy little peanut's perspective.


When I was a toddler, I was incredibly shy. It was to a point where my mum would place me in front of her legs and walk forward so I would enter a room and get used to the fact people would be in there. If she didn't do that, I would cry, hide, have high anxiety and attach myself to her. I wouldn't stay at people's houses other than visiting my Gran's during the day. As this ripple effect continued into teen-hood, I got to a point where I had had enough of being so shy and anxious. I knew I had to find a way to become more confident addressing others and experiencing things out of my comfort zone. Knowing that I am now an experienced Drama and Dance teacher, with over twenty years' experience with theatre, I wonder what I decided to do?


Seeing an article in the newspaper, I thought I'd plunge into a community theatre musical called 'Heavenly Bliss'. There was no looking back once I was on that stage. My theory had worked too. By performing and collaborating with a variety of cast and crew, I became more and more aware of how to socialise and communicate, that I learned to become a more confident individual. I owe that to the performing arts.


This rippled into my teaching career. I learned how to help others. I developed a variety of activities and situations within my lessons and mentorship that promoted communication skills. I shaped and supported many highly anxious, shy, and/or poor behaviour students with communicative needs. I did this well, because I resonated with them, and I understood the climb and the value of communication. So, although I did develop acting techniques well in the classroom, my goal was self-confidence. If students had this, then they won half the battle of performing. I knew many students with incredible acting skills who would battle with self-doubt. Every time they would let that side of them win, they wouldn't reach their potential in their assessments. Self-confidence and a belief that you can do it is vital when it comes to the performing arts.


I knew many students with incredible acting skills who would battle with self-doubt. Every time they would let that side of them win, they wouldn't reach their potential in their assessments.

The ability to collaborate with others by sharing the stage was something I also concentrated on. So, I agree with what Emma Willis said about theatre in education. She said it is all about "learning to respectfully work with others, to learn the art of creative collaboration."

It is always important to be a good performer and that includes working with others on stage. I've always found great work comes from people who share the spotlight. I don't go along to a performance to watch one person shine; I go to watch a story. And a story occurs, from a variety of characters experiencing a situation together.


I've always found great work comes from people who share the spotlight. I don't go along to a performance to watch one person shine; I go to watch a story. And a story occurs, from a variety of characters experiencing a situation together.

Collaborating in the real-world vs. the performing arts.


Just like in real life, the average business usually isn't held up by one person. It takes a variety of people behind the scenes and working collaboratively to keep a business running. For instance, a cafe isn't a one man show. You need different people to keep the cafe running smoothly, such as to manage the floor (staff and goods), make the hot beverages, prepare the food, keep the kitchen up to standard, keep the tables attended to and clean, cash-handling and balance the till, opening and closing the store, accounts, advertising and marketing, ambience and interior design of the decor, employment, health and safety checks. The list goes on! It is very similar to putting on a production. There are a variety of tasks that need to be done and it theoretically cannot be achieved with just the main actor. A production needs a writer, director, producer, casting director, actors, stage management, technology support (props, costume, makeup, hair, lighting, music and set), advertising and marketing, ticket sales and ticket collections, ushers, and a rehearsal and performance space allocator. It's likely I missed some vital jobs, but my point is, whether in a production or in real life work situations, you've got to have the ability to collaborate and cooperate with a variety of people. Not only do you need to be able to work with roles, but you've also got to build an openminded and mutual respect for genders, cultures, ages, abilities, and personality types. Being a part of a performing arts' project not only involves opportunities of expression, but it also involves the opportunity to develop your collaborative, communicative and cooperative skills.


whether in a production or in real life work situations, you've got to have the ability to collaborate and cooperate with a variety of people.

So, to conclude, is Drama useful in universities? It certainly is, and it isn't only useful for performers, but also people who would like to develop their communicative skills, collaborative skills, and cooperative skills.



Tovah O'Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd


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