Many of us, myself included, have fond memories of school theatre trips. Whether it's to see a pantomime, a local play, or even a large musical, trips to the theatre can be great fun, and a fantastic way to engage with something creative during a time in our lives when it is easy to become blinkered by the focus of passing exams. But are school theatre trips always educational? I would argue not.
My most memorable school theatre trip was going to see Wicked, in the West End. I adored the show, and seeing Wicked reminded me of how awesome live theatre can be … But, in my next drama class, we didn't discuss the production at all. What I personally got from seeing that show was a revived interest in theatre, but it didn't actually teach me anything.
In fact, the view of theatre that I got from seeing Wicked was very one-dimensional, and I assumed that the only way I could get involved in the world of dramatics was through acting. A few years down the line, I have a much better understanding of theatre; however, in reality, this didn't come from seeing Wicked.
For me, seeing Wicked was just a precursor to education, and I am inclined to believe that simply watching a live show can never be more than that.
So where does the education lie?
I was recently inspired to believe that school theatre trips can be a gold-mine of education, when looking at the educational resources available for Disney's Aladdin (similar materials also exist for The Lion King). Recently, Disney have launched a new component to these resources: a library of nine, short back-stage videos.
Far more than just a precursor to education, these videos provide a truly three-dimensional view of theatre. They delve into the details of Aladdin's costume design, set design, musical composition (in a video featuring Alan Menken himself), lighting, backstage crewing … the list goes on. They also link in with other educational resources – which can be used both before and after the theatre trip – and are specifically designed to tie in with school curriculums.
Having these resources means that watching a show is just the starting point for active exploration. They also make seeing Aladdin relevant to a wide range of students, as those who don't want to perform on stage may discover a back-stage or creative interest.
There are so many areas to explore within the crazy, exciting world of theatre that its educational value can be immense. But, for a school theatre trip to be truly educational, I would argue that it cannot be a passive experience.
Aladdin's curriculum-linked education resources are created for Key Stages 2 and 3, and BTEC pupils. Resources and further information can be found at www.aladdineducationresource.co.uk.