Gracing the Stage: Re-conceptualizing Theatre in Drama Education Through Principles from Cultural Psychology

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James, Octavia
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This thesis explores the meaning and use of theatre in drama education. The inquiry is grounded in a narrative of conversational interviews between myself and two other participants sharing a background in drama education and theatre production. Narratives generated from these interviews serve as the basis for interpretation and analysis as well as a resource to illuminate my own ideas. I have drawn from the principles of cultural psychology, particularly Etienne Wenger’s ideas of communities of practice to re-conceptualize theatre as a culturally relevant site of practice in drama education. Principles of cultural psychology are based on the premise that culture and psyche are co-constituting and that cognition is cultural and situated in practice; culture is the medium of thought and therefore it is the medium through which we learn. By building on the dual foundations of the narratives and the theories and principles of cultural psychology I attempt to create a hermeneutic dialogue that illuminates both particular and general concerns in drama education. A critical look at relevant literature along with the discussions with the co-participants shows that drama education primarily presents drama as a means for personal development or as a pedagogical tool to be used across the curriculum. Within both these traditions drama and theatre have become dichotomized with much of theatre craft relegated to the sidelines of the drama classroom. However, viewed through the lens of cultural psychology, theatre, with its richness and variety of cultural practices becomes an important component of the drama classroom. It succeeds at this by providing a powerful framework for learners through its artefacts and dual processes of participation and reification. This framework is built upon an understanding of theatre as a learned craft that engages our intentionality and is malleable enough to foster creativity by permitting the student to negotiate meaning within practice. The research findings point to the crucial need to reinstate art practices in drama education. In conclusion, dramatic art that allows for deep understanding of the dual nature of theatre and drama education is called for.
Theatre , Drama Education , Cultural Psychology