Suzanne Burgoyne, Ph.D., is Curators’ Teaching Professor at the University of Missouri and Producing Director of MU’s Interactive Theatre Troupe. Suzanne participated in three MU grants that use interactive theatre: Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues, NSF ADVANCE, and Komen. Named 2003 Outstanding Teacher by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Suzanne has also been a Kellogg National Fellow (leadership training and interdisciplinary research), a Carnegie Scholar (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning), and a Fulbright Scholar. With Kellogg colleague Bill Timpson, she co-authored Teaching and Performing: Ideas for Energizing Your Classes (2nd ed., 2002). Her latest book, Thinking Through Script Analysis (2011), embeds explicit learning of critical, analytical, and creative thinking in the disciplinary techniques.
“Engaging the Whole Student:
Interactive Theatre in the Classroom”
Interactive theatre provides embodied learning experiences that engage the senses, emotions, and imagination as well as the intellect. The active learning in theatre exercises helps develop critical thinking, as students explore ideas through images and enactment, rendering the subject matter memorable and meaningful. These workshop-style seminars also guide faculty in developing approaches to stimulating “difficult dialogues” on issues such as diversity, as well as to facilitating creativity in students.
The seminar will provide a theoretical basis for interactive theatre work, drawn largely from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, a social-action theatre form building on Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Dr. Burgoyne will also draw upon constructivist educational theory as well as her own experience using theatre exercises for a variety of disciplinary classrooms and for faculty development.
The workshop will be participatory, giving faculty the opportunity to engage in active learning of the techniques proposed and to share ideas about how to adapt the exercises to their own subject matter. The seminar will address the following topics, with experience as well as discussion about how to apply these methods to “difficult dialogues”—civil conversations on controversial issues—and the nurturing of students’ creative thinking and behavior.
- Developing a safe environment, in which students feel free to take risks and to express ideas.
- Creating ground rules.
- Encouraging collaborative group behavior (trust and bonding)
- Theatre Games
- “Warming up” – helping students become comfortable with active learning
- Assisting students in shedding culturally-induced fears of creative behavior and of “being wrong.” If a student fears being wrong, that student can’t take risks, thus the student can’t engage in independent, creative thinking or behavior.
- Enhancing sensory awareness.
- Promoting group cohesiveness.
- Using physical metaphors to explore ideas. Most of Boal’s exercises are embodied metaphors that, through guided discussion, can stimulate thinking and insights. Metaphoric and analogical thinking are key components of creativity.
- Image Theatre
- Students “sculpt” living statues with their own bodies and the bodies of classmates, images of some aspect of the topic under consideration.
- A variety of image techniques allow students to explore contradictory views of the topic and, when appropriate, to hypothesize solutions to problems.
- Images can provide vivid, memorable metaphors for ideas, and the creation of the metaphors empowers students, giving them “ownership” of their learning.
- Forum Theatre
- In Forum theatre, a short scene is performed in which the main character is unable to solve a problem; when Forum is used for class work, the problems selected relate to course topics.
- After the play is performed, students are invited to replace the actor playing the main character and to try out their own solutions for solving the problem.
- The workshop will give participants an introduction to developing forum pieces and facilitating a performance.
- Forum Theatre can be used to address diversity and other “Difficult Dialogue” issues.
5. Wrap-up and plans for implementation