When asked how to create a play for children, Stanislavski replied: “The same as for adults, only better.”
What is TIE?
Theatre in Education (known as TIE for short) became an increasingly popular after the Second World War, when people became aware of how effective drama and theatre techniques were in engaging and teaching children into learning in school. An early theatre practitioner called Brian Way, who founded the Theatre Centre in 1953, was said to have influenced the team that established the first recognised TIE performance at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1965 and their work was so influential that it spread nationwide. Most TIE shows are targeted for relatively small audiences of children, so it is easier for them to include audience participation, interaction and debate. Traditionally, the TIE projects would be followed up with a short workshop on the relevant subject or supporting recourse materials and training for the teachers to carry out independently. While Theatre in Education projects were originally centrally funded, these days, companies have to seek their funding from individual schools themselves, which involves them having to provide their own pitch to promote their shows and a product the schools want.
What is the difference between Drama in Education and Theatre in Education?
Drama in Education
This is a method and a subject that appears in most school curriculum’s as a learning technique to aid students who learn better kinetically. As a curriculum subject it uses a range of dramatic elements such as movement, voice, concentration, improvisation and role play to aid the personal and educational development of the student. The method utilises the means of role play and acting out to teach the students through experience, thus ingraining the information of particularly confusing subjects better. While in most Secondary schools drama is now a separate subject, in some Primary schools it is simply used as a method to teach a number of subjects more efficiently.
Theatre in Education
Unlike Drama in Education, TIE is presented by a professional team of trained and experienced actors who prepare relevant material/project/experiment to be performed in schools. These are usually devised and researched by the company and designed to be performed for small groups of one or two classes of a specific age. The aim of the programmes is essentially educational, and uses theatre, drama in education and teaching techniques to teach a certain area or subject in an interactive and engaging way. Theatre in Education can be considered as a method of work used by some companies all the time, whereas some companies only do so occasionally, alongside more traditional theatrical works. Many actors and companies alike use this method of work as their starting point to their acting career and a way of earning money whilst still being in the industry and profession of choice.
These are the following characteristics that would typically appear in a TIE show:
- There is a clear aim and educational objective running throughout.
- A small cast so actors must be versatile and often have to multi-role.
- A low budget so actors often play instruments too.
- The production must be portable so the design is simple and representational.
- They explore issues from various viewpoints, so we can see the effect of an action upon a range of people.
- There is some level of audience involvement.
- They are rarely wholly naturalistic because direct address or narration is used to engage the audience.
- The costumes are simple and representational, especially if actors have to multi-role.
- They may include facts and figures to educate the audience.
- They may have a strong message or moral running throughout.
Performing for specific audiences
Theatre in Education has developed a long way since it began in 1953 and various new techniques, methods and uses have arisen. Although generally speaking the productions tour primary and secondary schools to teach subjects relevant to the school national curriculum TIE can be used to create different kinds of productions, for example:
- Performances designed to stimulate reaction and participation from its small audience, perhaps through role play and debate. The work could be supported by resource materials. This is probably the most common method and use of TIE.
- Shows that are specifically targeting an area for a particular year group in a school’s PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum.
- Plays designed for a young audience, that could be based on a traditional story, perhaps focusing on morals or cautionary tales and allowing a range of follow-up activities if desired.
- Activities for very young children, linked by a story with the opportunities for more hands on involvement.
- Dramatised activities for an adult age group with specific needs, such as preparing for employment or learning parenting skills.
- A play designed for an elderly audience, in a care home or hospital, perhaps drawing on memories and engaging active participation in this way.
When putting together a TIE show it is essential that you think of the audience you will be performing to and how accessible they will be to the information you are providing them with. For example, Very young children are unlikely to be able to hold their attention span for long or absorb as much information if it is just being fired at then, therefore lots of participation and practical aspects will be needed in order to keep them engaged. However, older students may feel patronised by the same approach as their own level of concentration and susceptibility to absorb information is much higher and so would benefit from a more traditional performance style. The content and topic of the show would also be impacted by the age group chosen; for instance, students in higher key stages are likely to need more specific topics or areas with a topic that they need to revise in preparation for exams and therefore the content will have to be more academic and less story based. Interestingly, the older audience groups are rarely considered when thinking of TIE however as mentioned previously, it can be a useful tool to assist the elderly with learning new things or triggering their memory on a certain subject. Less obvious again, potential adult audiences for TIE style shows could include teaching those in prisons or other correctional facilities, Adult evening classes, or even employers on training programs.
How is TIE beneficial to schools?
1. TIE brings children fun, excitement, curiosity and motivation to learn with a theme in schools.
2. A TIE programme can approach extremely serious issues with fun and humour, making an otherwise boring topic seem exciting. Important issues can be explored with depth, sensitivity and intelligence.
3. A TIE programme teaches multiple skills at the same time including language skills, social skills, and drama skills.
4. TIE is an enjoyable way of learning. Through active participation, interaction and discussion, the children will have fun and they will remember what they learn for a very long time.
What makes TIE different to other pieces of theatre?
It is easy to assume that TIE performances as the same as any other piece of young people’s or educational theatre, however TIE shows are in fact educational packages or programmes rather than just stand alone plays. A piece of TIE theatre nearly always includes some types of audience participation and involvement before, during or after the performance itself, that somehow enhances the teachings featured in the show. The most common form of involvement in a TIE programmes would be directly encouraging the students to engage in the drama there and then, interacting with the actors physically or vocally; by decision making or taking on roles, and thus become parts of the drama – often then actively influencing what happens next and even affect the ending of the play. A TIE programme can also include a discussion session at the end of the play where the actors and actresses discuss with the students aspects of the programme’s content, or alternatively the company may choose to organise a work pack to leave for the teachers to carry out in the classroom independently. Unlike any other piece of children’s theatre, TIE programmes are concerned to educate and explore the specific issues (usually on a school curriculum) and to challenge the students to think for themselves and to enhance their learning in a way a classroom lesson may not be able to. TIE programmes had been spreading quickly all over the world in the last decades of the twentieth century, and have now been evolving in many countries in response to the school curricular, social or cultural needs – now becoming increasingly popular in Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong as well as the West (where it first began).
Which Companies already operate in the TIE field?
Recognised and Famous TIE Companies:
- Big Brum Theatre in Education Company
- Saltmine Theatre Company
- Konflux Theatre in Education
- Hobgoblin Theatre Company
- Freshwater Theatre Company
- Belgrade Theatre in Education Company
- Takeaway Theatre
- Bigfoot Arts Education
- Next stage Theatre Company
- Open the Door TIE Company
- Squid Stamp
- The Hopscotch Company
Video Examples of Theatre in Education Companies
Belgrade TIE Company
This is an introduction to TIE by the Belgrade Theatre in Education Company – discussing how they are celebrating the anniversary of TIE and how important and beneficial it is in schooling.
Captain Fantastic and The Wonder Crew – TIE Company
This TIE Company consists of a cast of three trained actors, with full production, sound, lights and an amazing set, performing shows and packages that teach valuable lessons in a language that Key Stage One students will understand. The company offer post-show workshops which are tailored to meet each individual school´s requirements in order maximise children´s learning. This particular company does not solely do TIE performances, as well as this they present their act at children’s birthday parties and as children’s entertainers.
Captain Fantastic and the Chocolate Planet
The video above shows a short trailer of one of the Captain Fantastic Theatre in Education shows called ‘Captain Fantastic and the Chocolate Planet’. The show is described as ‘a fable full of fun, laughter and magic based on the dangers of unhealthy eating’. The topic of this particular TIE show is a useful accompaniment to Key Stage 1 topics such as keeping healthy (science), literacy and PSHE. The show finds Captain Fantastic famished; however, his cupboards are bare! So, being an intergalactic traveller he decides to take a trip to the Chocolate Planet where he meets Greedy Monster. After falling for the Greedy Monster´s trap and eating too much chocolate moonscape he realises that he can no longer fit into his spaceship. Feeling homesick and missing his pet dog and cunning side kick `Winston´, he meets a native of the Chocolate Planet — Spit Spot. Spit Spot, along with the help of the children, return him to a healthier Captain again by teaching him the keys to a healthy lifestyle: fitness, healthy eating and good choices. Together they defeat the Greedy Monster and the Captain gets to go home with his new friend.
Squid Stamp Theatre in Education Company
Squid Stamp are an Award-winning Melbourne based Theatre in Education company. In the video below the cast talk about the tour of their acclaimed show ‘The Technology Show’. This particular show is geared towards students in Year 3 – Year 9, and explores important themes such as cyber bullying, technology addiction, social isolation and the use of social media. Obviously the content is relevant for older students rather than very young children and so the approach is more teenage like and uses language they might use and things of interest to there age group in order for it to feel more relative. Their approach is fun, while still remaining factual, in the form of a silly sketch show which explores the way we use, and sometimes abuse technology.
The Hopscotch Theatre Company
This is a Scottish based company that tours their educational performances to various locations for a wide range of audiences. The company use the medium of song in most of their performances to get across the messages of their productions, especially when performing shows aimed at very young children. While most of their TIE shows tour round primary and nurseries in Scotland, they also present their programmes as part of various community arts projects and schemes that strive to promote learning through all art forms, primarily theatre and drama.
“Pink! The Musical”
“Pink! The Musical” is probably one of their most successful projects and went on to tour 130 schools and nurseries across Scotland. The performance and follow up resources encourage 4 to 8 year olds to explore issues of discrimination and intolerance, encouraging children to think about how it feels to be “different” and excluded from a group. The show follows the story of a penguin called Patrick who wakes up to find he has turned bright pink overnight. When the teasing and laughing gets too much for him he undertakes a difficult journey to find where he really belongs, encountering some flamboyant pink flamingos in Africa! On his return, his differences are forgotten and he is welcomed home, as “penguins belong in the South Pole. Even pink penguins.”
The video below is an example of the company using song to engage the children and get across their message in a fun and memorable way.
Students from Royal Central school of Speech and Drama
Students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, on the Drama Applied Theatre and Education course have created a short time lapse video which briefly outlines a typical day when touring a TIE production, including the travelling, setting up at the venue, and the performance. This particular video shows the students’ devised piece called ‘Lud in the Mist’, which they toured around primary schools in Oldham.