Theatre in modern greek school. From ethnocentrism to multiculturalism.


Theatre constitutes that kind of educational communication system which not only corresponds to the equivalent existing reality and interacts with it, but also goes on further critism and revives, intervening constructively and shaping the minds of viewers, something which mainly occurs due to the dynamic image, the living example and experiential communion of spectators in scenes happenings as they occur in an interactive and bidirectional  manner.

These general observations gain particular content, when referring to school, where education and literacy of young people constitute a primary goal. That’s because the stage representation of human relations and the emergence of characters, the projection of ideas and values that are perceived directly and schematically by the young recipients formulate the pedagogical meaning and mission of the theater.

What is needed the most is to have a child or a young person as a protagonist who can be considered suitable for a student audience (Grammatas 1996); The dramatic text, whose recipients are young   spectators and will invite students to formulate it in a school theater performance on stage, should primarily be characterized by particular  stylistic and conceptual features such as:

  • Having a clear and specific framework for action with lively dialogue and vividness in action so as to generate intense stage imaging.
    •Combining the epic with the lyric element, the dramatic with the comic one, with a corresponding reduction of the narrative and rhetorical articulation of speech in order to maintain the interest of the viewer undiminished.
    • The intense activity and multiple conflicts at different levels, combined with gaps and stops, which will be supplemented during the show, as wells as rich teachings that will be formatted on stage.
    • Having a thrilling affair with representative heroes and standard features, that transform plausible, dynamic actions in a way that they constitute models for imitation for young spectators.
    • The plot and the action can be understood from the spiritual perceptions of the child, but also to stimulate the imagination to educate aesthetically and socially without didacticism, seamlessly connecting the real with the imaginary.
    • The subject, even if it develops through gaps and deficiencies, should give impulses and possibilities to the young viewer to watch the action hero and understand his behavior, avoiding ideological and psychological manipulation.

Among a large class of such plays which possess these requisite characteristics, and therefore may occur in a school play, there are those, who by their nature are now ineffective and mismatched to the requisite of the modern school.
These plays neither have social content, nor have timely ecological concerns. Moreover they do not exhibit a particular sensitivity to modern forms of cultural expression, nor have issues of contemporary technological reality, which by their nature could be of interest to the young student. Instead, they are dramatically texts with historical (mostly) content, written in the old days and designed to meet the needs of some traditional school holidays, like October 28 and March 25, within the prevailing (then) ideology and the dominant educational system .

The problem in dealing with this project category is as follows: To what extent plays and “sketches” with national, historic and patriotic content, which are allegedly aimed at young viewers, suitable for school use? Is not this a “spurious” dramaturgy such as the name allegedly of “childishness” performs a purely ideological (and partially) pedagogical objective and product of specific options in conjunction with historical and social data, aesthetic and pedagogical concepts of an outdated era? And if that is the case, whether it is pedagogically correct, theatrically valid and culturally acceptable or not, can the texts of this type be “imposed” on a completely different reality, in this contemporary multicultural school, causing feelings, emotions and situations which are not entirely acceptable in any level either by teachers or learners, referring to “Hellenism” and “national consciousness” that are supposed to serve?

How can the “ethnically pure”, the “patriotic elation” and  the “ethno-racial superiority” element  coexist as value-patterns that emerge from projects of this type, in a gap which separates “us” from “the others”, the “Greek” from “the opponents”,  with the pedagogical principles of the modern curriculum, aimed at abolishing all discrimination leading to the acceptance of” diversity “in respect of” other “, in recognition of cultures parity in unified multicultural educational environment?
It is much more important to determine, in the context of a globalized, multiethnic and multicultural society, the character and status of the greek society,  its ethno-racial and traditional ‘purity’ elements (ie discrimination) against expressions that are unfamiliar, since (like any “other”) even himself ethno-racial “familiar” may have multiple “persons” in a way that the desired boundaries between “identity” and “otherness”  become extremely precarious?

These are some of the main problems “Theatre in Education” is called upon to answer so as to meet the needs and challenges of the modern school. And because most of the works of the traditional repertoire of school holidays have historical content, the purpose is to define the meaning of “history” that should become accessible to modern new globalized era, to maintain interaction between historical memory and transmitted historical experience, but in a way fully compatible with the sockets and the desires of people with different reception conditions, from those individuals who have created the same history or performed plays in absence of dramaturgical and pedagogical rules currently in force. With such a process, it is possible that the past will be transformed into present experience acquiring timelessness by being converted into emblematic reminder of national identity, without contradicting the conventions and attitudes of today.

This will be done with proper revisory effect, which not only will intervene linguistically and stylistically, but also dramaturgically and pedagogically ,so as both the original work emanating message have its timelessness, (but adapted to the requirements of the times) and the stage appearance of the adapted play to develop its theatrical and artistic value, touching its viewers through perception.
This occurs due to the fact that the texts of past eras, written under different conditions and serving specific considerations, are known for intense didacticism which often leads to degrading or sometimes completely banishing  their aesthetic value. The ignorance of elementary features of theatricality (dialogue, twists, conflicts, unforeseen events, characters, condensation dramatic situations, avoidance of lengthy descriptions and narratives, etc.) is additionally counted on the negative aspects, thus weakening the performativity and deactivating their formative opportunity, in front of an audience of young spectators. Simultaneously intense didactic and the pedagogical definition  makes them inactive in an environment with different principles and criteria, the needs of which were intended to cover. It is therefore natural that the dramatic text of this nature loses its importance as a form of art and culture and the stage performance of self-expression process, creative liberation of personality of students-actors and socialization field and communication, are converted into shallow tutorial didacticism and aimless patriotism, unable to excite the younger generations any longer.
Therefore an urgent need for creative action in education on existing plays with historical content has arisen. This intervention will inevitably lead to the adaptation and the development of an independent secondary text.

The adaptation of a patriotic drama that will be created to meet the needs of a school theater performance and the expectations of a modern student and young public, can not be a simple transcription of the original text (patriotic sketches), but filtration of the options of the later author / arranger who converses with both of values ​​and conceptual world of the original, and the specificity of young spectator. He should aim to fulfill the aims and the desires of the latter.
Consequently, since it is about an audience (such as students in school performance), which is characterized by intense emotion and imagination to the detriment of intellectual and critical element, with homeotropic perception of the stage messages and simplified conception of reality, with a strong need to format the unreal element offered by history, in the objective or fictional version, it is understood that the adapter-teacher proceeds in play selection and attempts the transcription process, taking into account the factors mentioned above. That’s why the adapted text must have immediacy in narrative and clear plot, intense dramatic conflict and emotional situations that lead to fusion of the real with the fantastic element and stimulate the spirit of the young spectators, through standard symbols and representative heroes (something which exists in the historical dramas of the past as well). There should be alive dialogues and vividness in action, successive reversals in situations and immediacy in the dialogue while correspondingly limited static narration and confessions through monologues, which will favor the development of the adventure and the “suspense”. It should be a manifestation and an interference with the content of the work, not the distortion or undermining of values ​​displayed, but with the diversification and modernization of the way in which this is done. Extreme characterizations should be adorned and routine confrontations should be bridged, the plot should be approached through different perspectives and the temporal and human features in action heroes should be highlighted, so as, without leading to historical oblivion, they should develop cultural tolerance and, without compromising the “identity”, they should accept the “otherness”, formatting all data from modern theories of education and multicultural education on stage.

Only with such an approach in the past, it is possible for new generations to reap and exploit the achievements that belong to it and maintain their cultural heritage, as it indicatively appears in Greek theater through patriotic dramas by Melas, Sperantsas, Metaxas, Boukouvala-Anagnostou, Rotas  and many other plays of anonymous and famous teachers  who wrote “patriotic skits” for use  in “school holidays”. Only in this way we can lend theatricality to theatrical plays of earlier eras, so as to depict scenes in history without attachments to any national or other outdated cultural characteristics, while the conditions for the development of a new awareness among pupils are being created, necessary for the new season, which go beyond any stereotypical images of the past and contribute to the development of a different consciousness.