As educators in the Arts, it is hard not to notice an irony sometimes built into our relationships with students, administrators and the larger school community. Arts education is promoted at conferences and in publications for its relevance in preparing students for life in the 21st century but at the same time this promotional activity can seem fairly patronising as if the creativity everyone lauds were really akin to praising the football team during a season of persistent loss. Great effort again, kids! The analogy can be pushed too far but most people involved in Arts education will have had some experience of loss – loss of funding, loss of enrolment and loss of perceived relevance (vis a vis the power players of Math, Science, and Economics). Surely, the Arts, especially Theatre Arts, can do more to demonstrate significance as a pedagogical practice. But how?
The question is simple but the response is not. Like Simon McBurney we don’t do so well ‘waking in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with the realisation that we have no script and the show opens in 10 days.’ So we err on the side of caution. We take our cues from commercial theatre, a business mindset that minimises risk and experimentation in favour of pleasing audiences with shows they expect to see. This approach often means productions of sure-fire winners. Everyone involved knows what to expect from the genre; students showcase their talents, the school and its Arts programme is promoted and parents are pleased that their children are in the limelight. If a show goes well, everyone wins and everyone feels good about their accomplishments.