After reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, I sought further insight into the creative process and how to frame it in my teaching. The Directors Craft: A Handbook for the Theatre by Katie Mitchell has served as a really strong companion to this journey. The explicit connections are with the annual school production I direct and the my drama class. However, it was the implicit connections with pedagogy that really interested me, challenging me to thinking about how the role of the director in a production overlaps with the role of a teacher. Teaching a particular skill or piece of knowledge could be done via direct instruction: tell the student what they need to know. However, by viewing pedagogy through the lens of the director, one can find something far closer to student centred learning: directing the student to find out. There is much out there already on student centred learning, but from this book it was the close connection between this concept and the craft of a director that felt worth exploring. Some of the key takeaways from this book:
- The idea of seeing the work as if it were “naturalistic cinema” (4). By thinking of it as a simplistic sequence, you can think of the play as how the audience will experience it frame by frame. How might learning also be narrative based in something similar to ‘naturalistic cinema’?
- “If you get the picture of what happens in the past right, it will make what the characters do in the present more accurate” (24). This is essentially constructivism, articulating Piaget’s theory of learning. Your experiences of learning in the present, depend on your experiences and understanding of the past.
- Action on stage only represents a small window of time in a characters day and a character’s life; just as time with a student in class represents a small window of their time. What happens outside of these windows is important and makes a big difference to what we do in the time that we have.
- “Do not start on design, costume, lighting, music or sound until you have studied the play carefully” (76). A somewhat similar statement to make might be: do not start on lesson planning, resource selection, content choices, until you have met and developed relationships with your students.
I think there’s considerably more to explore with this pedagogical lens. My shift into teaching Drama over the last four years has had a profound impact on my practice in English and Media Studies. The Director’s Craft has been a launching pad to thinking about many of this ideas and is a truly excellent read.