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Children's Theater Classification



The Drama/Theatre Spectrum

***Guided Drama involves Creative Drama or Child Drama.
***Participation Theatre/Drama involves audience members alternately watchers and participants.
***Theatre involves a strictly prearranged art form; clear distinction between actors and audience.



 "Theatre, Children, and Youth" by Jed H. Davis and Mary Jane Evans

This spectrum of activities involving children and the drama/theatre is established on the classic definitions of drama (a thing done), and theatre (to gaze on). The natural dramatic propensities of children, located on the far left on the continuum, are seen to be the bases of, and to infuse all the forms of drama and theatre.


Creative Drama:

"Creative Drama" is an improvisational, non-exhibition, process-centered form of drama. The participants are guided by a leader to: imagine, enact, and reflect upon human experiences. The leader guides the group to explore, develop, express and communicate ideas, concepts, and feeling through dramatic enactment. In creative drama the group improvises action and dialogue appropriate to the content it's exploring, using, elements of drama to give form and meaning to the experience. The primary purpose of creative drama is to foster personality growth and to facilitate learning of the participants rather than to train actors for the stage. Creative drama may be used to teach the art of drama and/or motivate and extend learning in other content areas. Participation in creative drama has the potential to develop language and communication abilities, problem solving skills, and creativity; to promote a positive self-concept, social awareness, empathy, a clarification of values and attitudes, and an understanding of the art of theatre. Creative drama requires both logical and intuitive thinking, personalizes knowledge, and yields aesthetic pleasure.


Children's Theatre:

Children's Theatre is a nonspecific, global term indicating the general field of theatre as applied to children. While it is recognized that the term is used in a variety of academic, literary, and bibliographic contexts, the use of more specific terms such as those that follow should be encouraged for situations where exactness of meaning is important.


Theatre for Young Audiences:

Theatre for Young Audiences is a term encompassing "Theatre for Children, and "Theatre for Youth," the distinction being the age range of the intended audience. Even though adults frequently attend Theatre for Young Audiences, either as teachers accompanying classes, as parents with their kids, or merely as interested patrons, the focus on the performance remains on the young people in the audience as defined below.
Theatre for Children indicates theatrical events specifically designed to be performed for young persons typically of elementary school age, five to twelve.
Theatre for Youth indicates theatrical events specifically designed to be performed for young persons typically of junior high school age, 13 to 15.
Theatre for Young Audiences consists of the performance of a largely predetermined theatrical artwork by living actors in the presence of an audience of young people; either children or youth as defined above. It embraces the following characteristics:

  The performance may be based on written scripts of traditional form, or adapted, devised, or developed improvisational by directors, directors and actors in cooperative effort, or by actors working in ensemble.

  The dramatic material of the performance may be a single story line designed to engage the full empathetic commitment of the audience in a succession of events, or it may be a series of shorter, separate, or thematically related stories or sketches.

  Preferably highly skilled adult actors are engaged for the performance, with especially talented child actors in child roles.

  The full spectrum of theatrical arts and crafts may be called upon to enhance the actors' performance: costumes, make-up, scenery, lighting, props, sound, and special effects. However, many successful performances make only minimal use of these elements of production.

  The audience may be configured in any configuration utilizing a variety of spaces described by any number pf theatrical forms, from proscenium to open field. Since all theatre strives for communication among all parties, an intellectual and emotional participation by an audience is essential. Participation may be extended to limited direct physical and vocal involvement from their seats.

Participation Theatre is the kind of "Theatre for Young Audiences" consisting of the presentation of specially written, adapted or devised drama with an established story line constructed to include limited and structured opportunities for active involvement by all or part of the audience. Participation may range from simple verbal responses to an active role in the outcome of the drama. In the participation segments, adult actors function as creative drama leaders, guiding the audience. The seating configuration is dependent on the kind and degree of participation expected. While such theatrical events can be constructed for any age child or youth, they are, at present, most usually performed for children five to eight years old. Strict control over audience age grouping and special leadership training for the adult actors are advisable for success.

Theatre by Children and Youth is a particular variant of "Theatre for Young Audiences" in which the performers are children and/or teenagers rather than adults. The teenagers have been well schooled by a director in their primary task of bringing the dramatic material to life for the audience. Organizations engaged in "Theatre by Children and Youth" ordinarily plan their productions to focus on audiences of children younger then the performers plus interested adults. They generally do not use people below 8th grade level to perform scripted roles in "Participation Theatre" because of the demands of effective creative drama leadership.


While some values and standards are implied in these definitions, the exploration of them in fuller form is left to other committees. The definitions themselves were felt to be the first essential step.


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