Process Drama: Taking A Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes

An "educational drama", on the other hand, suggests the usual moving parts of theatrea playscript, actors who have practiced their roles, an experienced director, and a setting created by costumes, props, and scenery. Process drama doesn't use these common theater devices. The name of the method is all that matters. Process drama allows students and teachers to experience by improvising rather than performing a final production.

The goal of process drama is "a task that must be completed, a question to answer, or an area to explore." This, according to theater scholar Cecily O'Neill and teacher, begins with the idea of a project, a challenge, a decision or place. Teachers and students create a world of their own and try to resolve challenges and events by improvising. No script is written. The "drama", however, is not performed on a proscenium-style stage. Instead, it takes place in a class room, sometimes over many hours, or days.

Brenda Rosler's fifth-grade class brought the Boston Tea Party into her classroom by using process drama. Students acted out the parts of King England, colonists and British Soldiers. No lines were learned, no set was built; just a group and a teacher imagining what it must have been like in Boston in 1773.

Process versus Improv

Process plays a different role from "theater games" and other dramatic frameworks. This is especially true of Viola Spolin's system of improvisational actors developed in the 1950s. Spolin revolutionized theater education through short-term performance-based games or activities. Process drama is different. The students are not asked to perform for others but rather to experience a problem or challenge and learn about themselves. But process drama also cultivates and emphasizes traditional theater abilities, like listening, talking, and cooperating.

Teacher on stage

Process drama differs from traditional theater education in that the teacher is involved. Theater education is usually a case of the teacher coaching or directing. In process-based drama, teachers take on roles in relation with students and are involved in improvisation. In process drama, it is not uncommon for the teacher to play several roles. They can create the environment, shape the sequences or improvise, model behavior, or support students in general.
Teachers can play many roles, including that of a reporter, messenger or official. They may also create structure or act as a judge. Students are responsible for this. Also, the teacher does not "instruct" students to "act." The teacher will ask students to engage in imagination and pretend. The role of the teacher is not permanent. The role of the teacher is not permanent. Imagine the teacher in a facilitation role. A teacher may ask questions, and the next moment communicate the thoughts a certain character.

The "mantle" of an expert

A part of the process drama is to have students take on this role. This term was coined by Dorothy Heathcote to describe the fact that students are experts on the subject being studied. As students interact and learn from each other, they develop a better understanding. Imagine a play about the Continental Congress. Students will portray different historical figures and their points of views about the founding of a new country. In their discussions and disagreements, the students develop a greater understanding of governance. By the end the play, the classroom teacher is only one expert on the Continental Congress.

An important tool for the classroom

The process drama allows theater specialists to explore a dramatic universe beyond the limits of a script. Cecily O'Neill talks about the advantages of using process dramatics in theater classrooms. O'

Neill argues that process drama is a great way to explore dramatic literature, character development and collaborations between actors.

An aid in generalist classrooms

Process drama is a great tool to use in the language arts, social studies and literature curricula. It can also be used by teachers who are not artists. By improvising dramas, the students can connect to content more deeply. Through process drama, students can experience moments from history such as the Selma March, the First Thanksgiving, or the California Gold Rush. Teachers can facilitate the writing process by having students write about their experiences and roles through diaries, letters, newspapers, and stories. During this class, students learn more about the subject matter as they recreate historical figures, events, and periods.

Process drama doesn't require actors to "act"; it relies on attitude, empathy, and experience. It's a powerful tool that can be used across the curriculum.


  • marthareynolds

    I'm Martha, a 27-year-old blogger, volunteer, and student. I'm a graduate of the University of Utah, where I studied communications and political science. I'm passionate about education and volunteer work, and I love spending time with my family and friends.

Comments are closed.