Theater of the Classroom – Presentation in the Round
This final presentation of a theater production, and a lesson, is perhaps the most modern and most engaging for our audience. In this particular presentation the teacher and the students play the role of the principle players in the production. Now do not be mistaken that just because this presentation is the most modern and the most engaging of the three presentations that is necessarily due to these two reasons. To rely on these two simple facts would be a causal mistake that would lead to a fallacious misunderstanding. No. This presentation is the best to apply to any classroom setting because it ultimately is the best bridge to self-directed learning.
The Presentation in the Round is pretty much what it sounds like. This unique theatrical staging of a dramatic production became very popular in the early to middle part of the 20th century. It really gained much of its popularity after World War II. Prior to this global event, Presentation in the Round had been more of a European phenomenon, especially amongst the avant garde and modernist theater practitioners.
Presentation in the Round stripped away much of the props and backdrops of the more traditional stagings. The stage was set among the audience, which sat around it. Many times, the actors were not necessarily highly costumed. This resulted in a somewhat “bleak” atmosphere where all attention was placed on the script. The words held sway. It also called upon the audiences’ perceptions. What they brought into the theater with them from their own lives was just as important as the playwright’s lines and the actors’ deliveries.
Similarities in this a Japanese Noh theater cannot be ignored. Also, as we look East to earlier forms of drama, the shadow plays of Indonesia are greatly borrowed from as well. Returning to the more occidental territory, the cave painting of Lascaux can be seen as a forebear to this form of dramatic presentation as well. What the Presentation in the Round challenges the audience to do is help with the creation of the story while surrendering their familiar appendages of props, settings, and sometimes even costuming that goes with the theater.
In the classroom, when a teacher is confident enough to teach a lesson in this manner it will definitely set the students on edge. This is primarily due to the fact that the classroom teacher willing surrenders the role of local expert. The teacher joins the ranks of learners with the students. In doing so, while this may appears a weakening their status within the classroom, there is truly nothing stronger they can possibly do in teaching except perhaps for apologizing and admitting when they are wrong or do not know something.
When the classroom teacher joins the ranks of learners, then they may teach by showing. This is far more powerful that simple instruction. This inspires students, gaining their trust. The classroom teacher becomes something akin to a master craftsman amongst a group of apprentices. Done well and often enough, those apprentices become journeymen before they leave that particular teacher’s classroom.
More importantly, just as the Presentation in the Round calls upon the audiences’ own experiences, and even requires the participation at times, this type of teaching can personalize the learning in a very endearing way. If the classroom teacher performs the Presentation in the Round well enough and often enough, then the students will see the narrative of the course as their own, and add to it.
This will be the focus of my next exposition…