Drama: the Esperanto of the world of education and the arts

by John Somers | 1 January 2017

messages may travel clearly to a multi-national audience

The overarching title of this issue implies, perhaps provocatively, that there are forms of theatre which have no “language”. This presumably refers to a “spoken” language for there are many dramatic forms which communicate in unique, nonverbal ways.

Verbal language has been a major theatre ingredient since ancient Greek and Roman times but that approach is predated by the theatrical representations employed in older cultures with little or no speech, to capture aspects of the mysterious, the unknown and the spiritual. The human body has always been an expressive tool whether represented in graphic form such as cave paintings or in ritual activities which employed humans to represent the forces which were thought to govern existence. People have also used dramatic form to model life; to capture the past and explore the future.

Ancient Egyptian ritual.

There appears never to have been a period when dramatic representation did not exist. In fact, the arts generally predate every other study form which comprise our educational vistas in schools and beyond. These uses of the dramatic language were developed in myriad forms worldwide and held a uniqueness which survived until the impact of colonisation and the widespread imposition of Western values and beliefs which suppressed and weakened them.

During my international work I have witnessed many theatre forms. Where the communicative medium is mostly verbal in the actors’ national language, without fluency in that language it is difficult to absorb much beyond the basic meanings transmitted by speech rhythm, tone and volume, and the body language of the actors.

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