Theatre for young audiences and the Commedia dell'arte : the living tradition of the Commedia dell'arte in theatre for young audiences, with specific reference to selected original texts and performances.
The thesis affirms the relevance of "Theatre for Young Audiences" as a valid and distinctive genre; a performance genre that should entertain, educate and provide meaning in terms of its creative interaction with personal, social, artistic and cultural issues. The practice of playwrighting is removed from the assumption that it relies exclusively on inspiration, intuition and spontaneity; it is placed within a creative, experiential and discursive mode in which dramatic, theatrical, performance and structural issues can be researched, analysed and evaluated culminating in the crafting, making and presentation of innovative and challenging theatre. The research component of the thesis attempts to identify the social and moral responsibility of the playwright writing for young audiences. It is asserted that knowledge about the maturation of young people is crucial in the creative processes of writing plays and making theatre. The second chapter in Part One of the thesis, asserts that knowledge about the physical, emotional and intellectual maturation of the intended audience should clearly impact on the delineation of plot, action, character, language, audience participation, ethics and morality. The thesis clearly identifies the importance of this knowledge for the Arts Educator. However, "Theatre for Young Audiences" does not function solely in the realm of education. The thesis distinguishes this genre from those of "Theatre-in-Education" and "Drama-in-Education". The thesis firmly supports this distinction and affirms the status of "Theatre for Young Audiences" as a performing art. This argument is given further credence by the creative interaction of original scripts with the "living tradition" of the Commedia dell' Arte. The Commedia dell' Arte is examined from an historical perspective; pertinent features are addressed, selected, utilised and transformed into a dynamic theatrical experience for young audiences in contemporary South Africa. The Commedia dell' Arte serves as a theatrical model and becomes a creative device for further and renewed innovation. The inclusion of three original plays in Appendices 1, 2 and 3, plus numerous references to selected, original texts and performances provide an illustration of the concept that playwrighting for young people can effectively and imaginatively transpose theoretical inquiry into imaginative and challenging theatre experience. The thesis attempts to utilise a clear conceptual basis for the development of argument - the educational and psychological perspectives provide a foundation for ideas and critical writing. The theatre heritage becomes a catalyst for innovative and pertinent theatre that affirms the status, purpose and nature of "Theatre for Young Audiences" in contemporary South Africa.