How can theatre skills contribute to life outside theatre?

Fran Havard, 1 July 2012

Participants: Fran Havard, Amy Webber, Bob Havard, Jojo Townsend, Roland Oliver

There are enormous social, economic, spiritual, political benefits to be had from the creativity of the arts spilling over into ‘the wider world’. Society generally benefits from having a culturally literate population which is able to develop empathy, reflect on and critically assess all sorts of experiences so that they can bring about improvement in whatever field they are involved in.

Theatre skills in particular have much to offer. The group identified lots of examples which demonstrate this:

• Young people and others (individuals and even communities) involved in a performance project given a voice to tell their stories developing self-confidence, self-esteem; acquiring writing, performance skills, all of which may be therapeutic although not done as therapy (e.g. ‘Only Us’ at Bristol Old Vic; Myrtle Theatre Company's work with Children in Care, taken to Westminster to show and influence government minister/senior civil servants, policy wonks)

(We noted that the theatrical process in outreach work is different to conventional theatre in that it may take much longer to enable the personal journey to emerge in a way which is both authentic but also not damaging to the performer, also that sufficient support is provided before, during and after the process. What is the aim of this

production? a ‘Show’ or a curative process for the performer. These types of production can reap great benefits and opportunities although its a delicate process which needs good review, reflection and communication between writers and performers).

  • Use of improvisation ground rules when working with managers to develop their problem-solving abilities (e.g. management development teaching participants the value of responding ‘Yes, and’ instead of ‘But..’ to emerging ideas)

  • Role playing in preparation for interviews, various forms of public speaking (delivering eulogies mentioned twice)

  • Specific skill development training for people whose job includes speaking to large group of people, presenting ideas, communicating generally.

  • Working with disaffected teenagers to develop social skills via role-playing social situations and trying out various strategies for responding to them (work done with a secondary school in an area of high deprivation/low educational attainment)

    We reflected on why so many people find speaking to groups (or even holding sustained conversations) so difficult, and wondered whether there is enough emphasis in education (from primary upwards) on speaking and listening, particularly with young people who are disaffected or otherwise find conversation challenging.

    Many people find it very difficult to make a good living in the world of theatre, but there are both opportunities and needs outside it to contribute skills which can have a very positive impact on individuals, organisations and society in general. Some theatre schools (RADA was mentioned) have developed business working into the corporate sector e.g. presentation skills) and this is an area where there may be more opportunities for theatre practitioners.

The discussion focused principally on performance-related theatre skills, but the case could be made for a wide range of theatre disciplines being equally transferrable into the wider world; we would welcome your contribution of further examples of where you have seen this happen, or where you see opportunities that others may be able to respond to.......


participation, skills, transferable skills, value of theatre skills to society, Myrtle Theatre Company, Only Us, disaffected young people, creativity