While there is a history of using the arts in extension work, it is often not the first thing people think of when the think of our work. But there are elements of theater in much of the educational outreach we do – even if it is not defined, or thought of, as such. Leading an engaging workshop can be a performance art. If we think back to the educators in our lives who had the most impact it is easy enough to identify the “theater” of teaching at work.
And sometimes the theater is explicit. Compost Theater is one example of a deliberate and constructive use of ‘theater arts’ as an educational tools. Compost Theater was born in the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension Compost Education program. With a 3 member cast, Compost Theater happened in a diversity of locations with audiences drawn from across the life span.
For those of you looking for more information on theater – particularly a thread called “Popular Theater – and it’s use in educational programming a starting point would be Bates, R. A. (1996). Popular theater: A useful process for adult educators. Adult Education Quarterly, 46(4), 224-236.
Popular theater is deeply tied to the Latin American Popular Education movement and has roots in the work of Paulo Freire (among others). To learn more about popular education this article at infed http://infed.org/mobi/popular-education/ will give you some background and sources for further reading.