Dear Schools, Please, Be Generous with Your Theatrical Productions...

Elizabeth Collins

  • OnStage United Kingdom Columnist

Attention Teachers and Students! Do you lead a drama group or club? Do you attend a drama group or club? Yes? Then read on...

A good few years ago, I watched a documentary that had me in tears. It focused on the lives of the elderly living in the UK both in and out of care homes, who spent their days sitting in recliner chairs, with few or no visitors dropping by to keep them company or break up the monotony. I decided then to use my influence as a teacher to give some happiness and entertainment to the elderly members of the communities in which I worked by taking my students into care homes to perform short scenes or mini plays.

I'm yet to figure out a way to involve elderly residents who are still living in their own homes, as that is obviously a more complicated event (but I am determined, and there will be a way I'm sure). However, I recently took my drama club out to perform for the residents at a local care home. It was touching and fulfilling to see just how much both the students and the residents enjoyed the afternoon. Having interesting, vibrant and enthusiastic young people visiting them to perform and have a chat is a gift that keeps on giving.

The students were also given time after the performance to chat with the residents and I have some beautiful photographs marking the occasion; it's so important to give young people a sense of responsibility and care for the people in our society who end up, in their later years, feeling very lonely and marginalised. The students clearly enjoyed chatting about their role and the production, as well as the club and school, while the residents shared their own stories of being in stage at school or later on. Memories were shared and memories were made; I'm already thinking about the next visit!

Performing locally takes minimal effort and funds- sometimes, a local residential care home can be a short walk away! Performing locally can also create a great community reputation for your school and could even be tied to fundraising. If you are a student, showing an interest in leading a partnership project would not only be a fantastic thing to talk about on your CV regarding leadership and ability to engage with wider audiences, but depending on your age, it could be a great strength in a university application. Most of all, though, it is a fantastic way of showing young people that there are individuals in their community who would greatly benefit from their company and performances; to see those who spend a lot of time behind closed doors, who are most in need of social recognition.

So, my plea to you is this: please, whether you are a teacher running clubs or creating productions, or you're a student attending the clubs or taking part in productions, look into forming a partnership with local care homes. Taking students out or leading trips out for your drama club, to perform for local residents every few months, can be such a wonderful experience for all involved. Performers love to perform for audiences, and many residents in care homes appreciate being entertained by youthful, happy people; take a little time to share your joy, your talent and your productions- it can mean so much more than you might think!

Photo: The Crucible - Fremont High School 2014