Art, education and unity: Theater in the twenty first century

Theater is a form of artistic expression, a tool for education and empowerment. But can it also be a tool for change? Our teacher, Drew Humphrey, shares his thoughts surrounding theater: “Theatrical storytelling is absolutely necessary to understand not only our own circumstances but to appreciate the different experiences and points of view that our neighbors have. It is the best tool I know of to build empathy and understanding in a world full of conflict and intolerance.” Studies show that theater makes information easier to process and engage with, especially when dealing with complex topics surrounding human emotion and interpersonal relationships (Colantino et al., 2008). Theater can translate difficult human experiences — such as bullying, homophobia and isolation — into a medium where it's safe to engage in, opening audiences to discussions that may otherwise be left ignored. 

Just as theater provides a safe space for a message to reach an audience, for theater makers and students, it provides a playground — a secure environment — where they can explore different choices and actions and deal with the consequences. Thus, theater becomes a special opportunity for education. By giving them the possibility of exploring consequences and moving forward with them, theater values agency. Making choices on stage and off stage gives students confidence in their decisions: it empowers them. 

For Drew Humphrey, engaging in theater is also celebrating community: “The magic of theater is based around a group effort toward success — achieving that success only by celebrating everyone's unique gifts and contributions — the way I know I would like to see the whole world work.” In order for a performance to succeed, there is a need for trust, respect and tolerance among the performers. When talking about a theater, we must, too, talk about the work behind it. It is widely recognized in media studies that “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1964): each piece of art contains a message, but the medium itself is a message, too. In theater, the message is the coming together of people to put on a performance; the message is unity. 

In Spotlight, we believe a theater education can empower our students, encouraging them to engage in these difficult conversations around conflict and intolerance. Here, theater is a tool for change, used to help our students develop the skills they need for the 21st century through an artistic education. We aim to create a safe space full of empathy and understanding where our students can be their most authentic self. Our next Musical Montage Program starts on September 3rd, while our next Training Program starts on October 4th. Check out the “Talleres” section on our website for more information!