Explorations in drama, theatre and education : a critique of theatre studies in South Africa.
This dissertation explores the potential of theatre studies to develop a pragmatic and relevant pedagogy for South African students and adults. The contention is that the dominant paradigm as conceptualized in the discipline ‘Speech and Drama’ is outdated. Section One offers a critique of this paradigm and an analysis of the premises that supported its foundation and consolidation in English-language South African Universities. Following this a search is instituted for a methodology of theatre studies which is both appropriate to present circumstances and which could encompass all South Africans. In Section Two, a survey of theories of performance is undertaken because a methodology of theatre studies is, of necessity, linked to performance theory. The pioneering contributions of some South African scholars are explained and evaluated as part of a larger body of theoretical analysis in both the humanities and the social sciences. In Section Three, the search for a methodology is approached from a different angle. The researcher offers a detailed descriptive analysis of her own work in the Department of Speech and Drama at the University of Zululand both among students and in a nearby rural community. This serves to explore the kinds of learning that occur through practical involvement in drama, theatre and specifically playmaking. These learning processes are related to the distinctive functions in drama and theatre, namely the heuristic, communicative and interpretative functions. The work is connected to progressivist trends in education and participatory research in the field of adult education. One of the intentions behind the work was, indeed, to challenge commonsense perceptions and discover the extent to which individuals are ‘victims of their own biography’. This challenge is specifically related to anti-feminist, racist and class perceptions. The dissertation concludes with recommendations for a learner-centred approach to theatre studies that is rooted in personal experience and consciously mediated through refined and extended conceptual categories. The tension between the development of students’ analytical powers and communicative skills is explored and a semiotic approach to analysis is posited. The importance of extending university work into the wider community is discussed and related to a rural development project involving playmaking, undertaken to research the potential of learning through drama for adults.