Drama has been with us since the earliest times. It has been used in
all its various forms--whether that be pantomime, storytelling, spectacle,
or typical theatrical, artistic expression--to create solidarity within
a society. This can be seen in the earliest tribes of humanity and their
use of pantomime to establish and share the thrill of the hunt, or the
danger of the storm, or the awe of childbirth. This can also be witnessed
in the violent spectacle of a fifteenth century Punch and Judy puppet show
and how it provided an emotional release for the children of that time
period. It can be explored from the oral tradition of campfire stories
and the way they brought the campers together, bonded them in fear.
Drama is a way to explore the values of a society. Each community’s
values--whether it be the local Presbyterian church, or the movie industry,
or even the classroom--can be defined by the their use of Drama: the church
has an established ritual of storytelling, musical performance, and key
phrases to which the audience responds vocally, and it is all to extol
the glory of the Divine; the movie industry has its spectacle of the Oscars,
and the intimate storytelling performances referred to as “pitching” that
occurs when someone is trying to sell a movie that pushes the value of
conspicuous consumption, wealth, and greed.
In addition there is the actual Art of the Theater itself and how that
is used by societies, both historical and contemporary.
The study of the dramatic arts is also key to the students development
of self-confidence in public speaking and performance situations and how
to work to create in a cooperative environment.
The study of drama then, through textual and physical examinations, should give the student the opportunity to create an experience that breeds social understanding and self-confidence. It should be angry and noisy at times, and quiet and introspective at other times. It should be an act of creation, but even moreso, it should be an act of communication.
To know a society, learn it's theater. Then shout what you know to the rooftops.