I’m not a theatre educator. Heck, I’m not any kind of educator and feel fairly confident in saying that I never will be.
But I have directed a fair number of high school students in shows, and even two and a half all high school shows, and I’m fascinated by the debate of process vs. product in performing arts education.
I’m firmly in the product camp. In an art form where the quality of the final product is so extremely important, I believe it is a disservice to kids to focus solely on the process of theatre.
Sure, you can have acting lessons and stage management classes and directing workshops, but if you’re teaching show-making, it’s not the process that counts. It’s the product, the show itself.
And frankly I believe that if the product is poor, the kids haven’t learned the right lessons.
I’m not saying junior high students should be creating Broadway quality shows. You wouldn’t expect them to complete college level math or play professional level basketball.
But they should be performing the very best junior high productions they are able to produce.
Unfortunately my argument is somewhat weakened by the fact that I love attending “works in progress.”
Today was the first of three weekends of staged readings by the New York Theatre Workshop, who are in summer residency at a nearby college.
Each Saturday features two readings and I attend them all. I look forward to it all year long. After Booktopia, they are my very favorite weekends of the year.
I love seeing a piece that will never be the same again. I love imagining what the final show will end up looking like. And I love experiencing actors so passionate and talented that you forget they have a script in their hands and lose yourself in the story.
Ok, so maybe there’s magic in the process too.