Theatre for Change: A New Approach to Drama

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In 2015, the NIST Drama Department developed a special unit in Year 11 that focused on the power of drama to create change in the world. The goal was for students to develop skills in the course that they could then use to impact a community positively by drawing attention to both local and global issues. An extension of this unit has become an annual service theatre trip involving clowning, a powerful communication tool, as clowns have the ability to communicate universally without the hinderance of language barriers.

In the first year of the unit’s implementation, students traveled to Cambodia and presented a clown piece to six local schools, educating young people on the perils of migration and forced labour. The second year saw a group of clowning students return to Cambodia with a piece called “A Teaspoon of Change” with the idea of promoting local environmental sustainability practices.

This year, in November, year 11 students traveled to Chiang Dao and engaged in a very unique service programme. Instead of only bringing a previously created performance to a community, the students led workshops for local high school students. The local students, who had never studied drama or clowning, worked with our own to create, develop and perform a collaborative piece called “Celebrating Us!”. The goal of project and performance was to share and merge our diverse backgrounds and cultures in a theatre experience that focused on clowning skills and a celebration of collaboration.

NIST students also had the opportunity to work with Thai theatre artists at the Makhampon Art Space to learn new skills and enhance their performances further. On the final day, our students spent time with younger children in a nearby Dara-Ang village and presented their revised performances to a village audience in the evening. Without language, they bonded over laughter.

This unit has become one of the most rewarding units in our drama curriculum and as Year 11 student Kaede Miyazawa said on returning to school after the Makhampon trip, “This experience has changed my life. I thought service was about giving! But I now know I have received far more than I gave away on this trip!”