Under the Influence

The Arts for Improvement in other Areas

I recall a PSE lesson in Year 8 in which we had to research the jobs within the NHS as part of its ‘Step into the NHS’ program.

One of the many jobs that we could research was a drama therapist.

This came as a shock to Year-8-me and I thought, ”how could drama come into something as serious therapy?” lo-and-behold drama therapy is the ‘intentional use of drama and/or theatre processes to achieve therapeutic goals.’

Thinking back on this memory, I wondered, what other areas of life and school do ‘The Arts’ (Drama/Theatre, Music and Art) have an influence on?

— IMPROVE IMPROV

The skills utilised in the theatre, art studio and music room manifest themselves in many areas of life. Some are obvious and some are a little more obscure, as perhaps a less obvious use of the Arts is the role of people that engage with customers on a day-to-day basis.

Changing tone of voice depending on social situations comes naturally to most and can be regarded as a form of acting — which can be particularly effective in stressful situations.

I find that if you can separate yourself and any fears or anxieties from a situation and replace it with the confidence of a character onstage, suddenly, the task becomes ten times less daunting, but maybe that’s just me.

Now when Shakespeare said “all the worlds a stage“ I don’t think he meant moderating a conference or pitching a new business idea to your CEO, but the point is that most of what we do in everyday life follows some sort of script.

It can be comforting to know that, in most situations, you’re the only person who knows how that script goes. So when you miss a point in that conference, as long as you’re vaguely capable at improv, everyone else will be none the wiser.

And where’s a perfect place to improve your improv skills?

You guessed it, in the theatre.

If you’re able to cover for a missed line or prop, you can certainly cover for when things don’t go to plan in the world outside of the theatre.

Improvisation is a key skill to possess and can help lead you to success later on.

(“Fake it till you make it” is a common phrase for a reason, folks.)

DREAMWORK

Speaking of key skills, I’ve never been good at working in a team.

I believe my control-freakness – if that’s a word – won’t allow for it but fortunately (or unfortunately) to truly experience Drama to the fullest, working together is paramount.

The community that theatre creates is unparalleled and because of the different disciplines that are included within the creative process of a performance, people from all walks of life are brought together.

Whereas the stereotype of “theatre kids” boils performers down to people with no friends and nothing better to do than to frolic around, performing some obscure Shakespeare play — the actual personnel found in the theatre are so much more complex and goes to show that there’s a place for everyone in the theatre and that doesn’t always mean on the stage.

Those that bask in the spotlight differ in experience, physical ability and performance skill and that allows for a diverse environment where some of the best (and most unlikely) friendships are formed and forged.

For those that would rather stay behind the curtain, backstage work is the epitome of transferable skill.

From working the lighting and sound systems to advertising for the show, every skill used in the theatre can be translated into the workplace and should be seen as equal to the classic facilitating subjects. It’s a wonder that it’s not.

The communication between these disciplines is vital and as much as I dread it, teamwork does make the dreamwork.

ALIKE IN LITERATURE

The link between the arts and studying English is crystal clear.

Between gruelling over one of Shakespeare’s 38 plays and describing the connotations of words used to describe Mr Hyde, there are some obvious parallels to be drawn.

While English focuses on the words chosen and how they fit with those around them, Drama homes in on which of those you emphasise, which of them you say quietly and which of them you don’t say at all — it’s safe to say that studying both can round out your experience of literature.

Despite the informal nickname my friends and I have given Drama -extended English- we appreciate the unique experience that drama is.

Recently, to prepare for our devised GCSE performance, my class was given the task of creating an abstract piece to convey a message.

In studying our Practitioner, Bertolt Brecht, it is inevitable that sensitive topics come to light but being able to explore and showcase complex emotion through means other than speech is an experience second to none, as those that may have trouble expressing themselves can do so through symbolic and subjective means.

— BOX BREAKING

For most of my life, I believed it took two very different frames of mind to study maths and to study drama and for most people, that holds true. With a very practical right-or-wrong subject such as maths, it seems that such a symbolic subject such as drama or music would have no overlap, fortunately, that proves to be incorrect.

In year 11, we’re covering the trigonometry module of maths – I don’t think I’ve come across a more depressing topic in my life, but that’s beside the point – certain parts of this topic require an unprecedented amount of spatial awareness.

Visualising triangles and attributing an O, an A or an H to the sides depending on where the desired angle is on a Monday morning is draining, to say the least.

But I don’t recount the horror that is SOH CAH TOA for no reason.

I found that the visualisation needed in maths can be compared to remembering the sections of the stage from an actor’s perspective and – since I know just about nothing to do with music – one of my more musically inclined friends commented: “Sequencing in maths is like arpeggios.”

— ”IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE”

My maths teacher would be overjoyed to hear me say it, but Maths does prove useful in many areas of ‘The Arts’ (to some extent.)

In some aspects, music is maths.

From time signatures to beats and rests it may be advantageous for students to link music and maths to further skill in both, seeing as teaching music at an early age has been shown to improve performance in many other areas in life(1) and the discipline required to learn an instrument can be transferred to other areas of academia.

It also gives them an edge over those that don’t. Studies show that children that play musical instruments can complete complex maths problems quicker than peers who do not. (1)

The motor skills developed in the music room are also vital for other areas of life that require precision and patience, so much so that activities such as playing the violin and guitar have been shown to improve bilateral integration (coordinating both sides of the body)(2) and are particularly good for the development of young children’s brains.

This head-start means that these children can learn to do up buttons and tie shoelaces faster than their peers.

All in all, ‘The Arts’ are so much more than a fun pastime or a creative outlet. They prepare a growing generation for the challenges they may face later in life.

So, I guess the takeaway is: “play on.”

 I’m glad Shakespeare was good for something.

(1)

https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/correlation-between-math-and-music-ability

(2)

https://stagemusiccenter.com/music-school-blog-winchester-ma/2019/9/6/fine-tune-your-motor-skills

By Aminah (Resident Young Person blogger for Squire PAC)