Primary emotions – an integrated drama and art project

by Maggie Young | 5 September 2015

He created such a sense of love with his face and voice that it was really joyful.

It is through the arts that I believe a person learns what it is to be human. The essence of humanity is integrated thinking and integrated responses to the extent that we sometimes fail to realise how much intuitive thought is involved in what we often dismiss as emotional response. In working with the complex ideas of integrated concepts the arts should be in the forefront of education. In what other areas are students asked to respond on an intellectual, intuitive and emotional level; to put their hearts and heads on the line? In drama as in art and music you have to take risks and those risks are taken in public. In drama, though, unlike the other two subjects, you have to learn quickly who you can rely on and who you need to support. You have learn to read people, not just texts.

I wanted to create a project that integrated art and drama in a challenging, meaningful way. The students are asked to really look at how humans express emotions facially and to understand the part colour plays in recognising emotions and moods. From there they use this understanding theatrically. This project, then, has two main tasks. The first is to create a set design using a portrait as the main motif and the second is to create a piece of theatre for one audience member stimulated by that design.

I decided to begin with the primary emotions from Commedia dell’Arte. The concept of the stock characters was a good entry point.

To continue to read this article please login to your ISTA account

This article is for ISTA members only, if you would like to find out about becoming a member please contact us at