Ms. Zena's Z-Battical: Schools without Theatre

By Zena posted 04-06-2014 12:43


High School Theatre is for rich schools.”


I was actually told that – by a PRINCIPAL – when I went in to talk about spending a day in his school & asked why there wasn't a Theatre program.


And it isn't the first or only time I've heard comments like that.


As I travel, I've learned that in regions with a higher concentration of Title I schools, many schools have music programs, maybe fine art programs, but often not Theatre programs. If an area is fortunate, there will be a Magnet School for Arts that kids can apply to attend part-time. But the past month it has been near to impossible to find the kind of Theatre programs I want to visit. So many of these schools have shifted curricular focus to accommodate for repairing low test scores - accommodations which often result in losses of arts.


So, I've ended up spending a lot of time in English classrooms lately...and occasionally a teacher is also running an after-school program that puts on one or two productions in a year.


What has surprised me is that even those teachers feel the way the aforementioned principal does. When I ask 'why' I am met with the obvious answer – productions cost money...and many people associate having a Theatre Program with just putting on shows. Many schools and staff aren't aware that there is a HUGE difference between having a trained teacher teacher Theatre classes and having that person put on a production.


I do not believe that they provide the same opportunities or experiences.


And I do not believe that having a production or two a year is an adequate substitute for having an educator teaching classes.


But I do not know how to help a principal understand that.


Especially when, in all reality, I cannot prove with statistics the importance and relevance of Theatre in the classroom the way music can. I cannot give the principal the names of important and influential figures who tout the critical impact learning Theatre in school had for them. And the educational field today demands statistics from us in order to validate everything we say.


So I told the principal this: “You are right. Only rich schools should have Theatre. After all, only rich schools have kids who need to understand empathy, compassion, read, write, speak well, and become important members of this world. I'll make sure to share that with the poor kids at the school where I taught Theatre, because I have clearly been doing a disservice to them all these years.”


I won't make a difference by having said that.


But I don't need to.


Instead, he made a difference in me by what he said.