Theatre and Bullying: A Useful Tool for Increasing Awareness About Bullying and Victimization
Theatre has been used in a variety of ways over the last few decades as a strategy to address bullying in school settings. Common approaches typically include:
- Teachers using role-playing activities (in conjunction with anti-bullying programs)
- Artists in schools
- School productions
- Visiting theatre productions.
In my experience, the latter seems to be the most common. Here, professional companies or other social justice oriented groups present dramatic plays that expose bullying issues to school-aged students. These plays vary in production value and content, yet most depict the negative consequences of bullying. Nonetheless, the plays that also illustrate strategies to address bullying tend to be more beneficial in promoting healthier relationships, in that they offer ways for children to either prevent or cope with bullying.
The Goal of Using Drama in School
The primary goal of using drama in schools is to help students better understand themselves and the world they live in (1). Teaching improvisation and role playing helps students
- develop emotional (as well as cognitive) intelligence,
- negotiating skills,
- and the ability to transfer ideas to a new situation (2).
Drama is unique because it allows participants to imagine without having to live with the consequences of their imaginative actions (3). Therefore, it provides a safe approach to learning, and “creates a distance between individuals and their real-life situations through the characters and situations being enacted (4)”.
By the same token, as drama activities unfold, the line between what is being symbolically represented and the so-called real life experiences begins to blur. Neelands suggests that “the fictional situation and characters become more and more recognizable to the creators of the drama, and the relationships begin to form between what is happening in the drama and what happens in the outside world (5).” Drama allows and encourages participants to shift positions, to represent multiple perspectives and points of view. Ultimately, the dramatic activities enable participants to experience vicariously that which the other may be living through (6).
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