Theatre education is about more than just theatre, because it helps foster important life skills like creative thinking and empathy.
In the past decade, education has become increasingly focused on the workforce skills students need to be successful citizens. In studies and surveys, business leaders have repeatedly lamented the difficulty of finding workers who could think “out of the box” and creatively imagine new ideas and solutions.
Theatre is both an academic and arts discipline that not only allows for independent thinking, but strongly encourages it, through the application of the “Four Cs,” which are: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication. All of these skills help students succeed in college, career, and life.
The Educational Theatre Association’s 2012 landscape survey of the field found that 95 percent of school administrators believe that theatre experiences improve students’ overall academic skills and helps increase their understanding the world.
Understanding, tolerance and listening
In these highly divisive times, theatre promotes understanding, tolerance and listening. When a student steps onto a stage in character, they are “walking in someone else’s shoes” and, in doing so, must assume that character’s physical, emotional, and spiritual being in order to communicate and understand the context of the play’s story and the other characters who populate it. This ability is fundamental to fostering empathy.
Access and equity challenges
Still, theatre education faces challenges in our country. U.S. Department of Education data estimate that less than 30 percent of public high schools in high poverty areas include theatre instruction, and the number is even grimmer in elementary schools: Only four percent offer access to theatre. Theatre experiences should not just be for the privileged few. Every student deserves the opportunity to experience its joy and gain the workforce skills that will prepare them for whatever career pathway they choose to follow.