Theater and Drama in our school

In Waldorf schools one highlight of the year is a play that emerges in each class from the curriculum. Every child in the class participates, uniting the class artistically and socially. The art of articulation and expressive speech demands the full attention of each student. Music weaves throughout the plays and eurythmy adds yet another dimension. The plays help to deepen the students’ understanding of the main lesson work. They become the Romans, Vikings, or the Greeks, or they might become the wolf, dragon, or demon. The characters become actively real to them. The curative opportunities are endless. A shy child might be given a bold, outgoing part; or a boisterous, choleric student given a sensitive, compassionate part. Out of imaginative play, first grade students bring a fairytale play. The class learns the whole play, for the children are too young to hold individualized parts or to stand facing an audience alone. Groups of students step forward to enact various parts, then step back to join their class, speaking in chorus. Stories of saints and fables fill the second grade curriculum. These students practice facing their audience, speaking clearly, and producing beautiful gestures and movements. The developing children in third and fourth grade can maintain individualized roles. They work with more demanding parts, music, and eurythmy. They mostly imitate the class teacher’s expressive guidance. Third grade plays have many Old Testament stories from which to choose. Often fourth grade plays feature Loki, the trickster (a favorite character with the children!) There is a wealth of humor, tragedy, and romance in the Norse legends. The class awakens to the understanding that the smallest part is as significant to the whole play as the largest part. Only by the children working together and doing their best can a play have a chance to succeed. The study of myth leads us seamlessly into the study of history. We look at ancient myths of India, Persia, and Mesopotamia, and slowly awaken to the cultures of Egypt and Greece. The fifth grade student who is leaving childhood and moving into preadolescence is grandly met by the beauty, grace, and harmony that permeate the ancient Greek culture. Greek myth lends itself well to artistic interpretation. The study of actual human beings in real life historical situations weaves through the sixth grade curriculum. Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages offer rich material. In this period, conflict and strife struggle with law and order. This is reflected in the social structure of the sixth grade and transformed within their play. The study of biographies continues through the seventh and eighth grades. In the seventh grade, the class teacher finds material for the class play in the Age of the Explorers, the Renaissance or in their geographical studies. The eighth graders complete their travels through the ages of humankind, arriving in our present. Delving into the industrial age, they explore the idea of freedom through the French and American revolutions. A Shakespearean play is often produced in this year. Shakespeare offers a beautiful command of the English language. A play entertains, inspires, instructs and transforms. What magic happens between a player and the lines of a play? What transfers between a performer and an audience? What takes place among the players as they depend on each other to deliver their lines? We have personally witnessed tremendous transformations in students through class plays. We have seen the students gain self-confidence, admiration, appreciation and acceptance among their peers. We have seen them uncover strength, sensitivity, and courage in their performance. We have seen each student reach a new understanding of what it means to “become human.” Through this artistic endeavor, we observe classes evolving socially and appreciating each other. Our curriculum at the Eugene Waldorf School continues to impress us in its richness, artistry, and depth. Written by Robin Morris, former class teacher.