Does a visit to a theatre make any impact?
You can read a play. You can watch a film. But you can’t beat live theatre.
Seeing real people perform just metres away from you can give you a real buzz. You feel part of the action and it is a wonderful experience.
According to University of London developmental psychologist, Dr Natasha Kirkham, going to see live theatre shows can help aid children’s understanding of emotions. She also says that there is clear evidence that attending theatre performances can help enhance social bonds, and play a useful role in helping children develop emotional intelligence.
According to other research, field trips to the theatre provide pupils with a a number of educational benefits. Greene et al (2018) describe the results of five random assignment experiments spanning 2 years where school groups (average aged 14 years) in the US were assigned by lottery to attend a live theatre performance or, for some groups, watch a film version of the same story.
The results are impressive – they found those students who attended a live theatre performance displayed higher levels of tolerance, better social perspective taking (the ability to understand others’ feelings and perspectives), and a stronger command of the plot (content knowledge) and vocabulary of those plays. Students randomly assigned to watch a film did not experience these benefits.
Our findings also suggest that theater field trips may cultivate the desire among students to frequent the theater in the future.
Theatre visits are few and far between though and for some children they can be non-existent. The real challenge is to get them to a theatre in the first place.
I like what the Old Vic are doing – they have a Schools Club which allows 30 Year 9 – 13 students from 40 schools to become regular theatre goers for a year.
Three years ago novelist Phillip Pullman urged the government to make theatre trips a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Who can argue with this? The contribution of arts education is massive and yet it can be pushed to one side and seen as frivilous. We still talk about STEM when we should be embracing STEAM.
Pullman said, that schools and parents have to take children to the theatre so they can experience its magic,
Theatre is one of those things that children will love if they’re helped to get there to see it. No child will find his or her own way to the theatre.
The vast majority of teachers would agree that visiting a theatre outside of school is an important experience for students. However, cost and localisation are an on-going barrier to making these trips.
Shouldn’t every child have a right to access the best art this country has to offer, regardless of their circumstances?
Theatre transports you and makes you a participant – it also promotes a connection with and understanding of humanity in a satisfying and feel-good way.
Theatre can make you gasp, laugh, cry and reflect – it also makes you feel alive. As Greene (2016) says,
Culturally enriching field trips matter. They produce significant benefits for students on a variety of educational outcomes that schools and communities care about.