Fabulous Theater!

by Karen

I recently stumbled across the fact that Digital Theatre Plus, a UK-based company that distributes theater materials to schools worldwide, was opening their program to homeschoolers. By a quirk of chance we ended up being one of their first subscribers. The program has been such a joy that I am happy to share our experience.

My daughter, 17, is a theater nut anyway. So she was thrilled to have access to more filmed theater (particularly David Tennant of Doctor Who fame starring in Much Ado About Nothing!). There are 16 plays online right now, with more being regularly added, as well as their first opera. Shakespeare is well-represented; there are modern classics like Ibsen, Miller, and Williams; and then there are a handful of edgier very recent or new plays (preview for your comfort with political and sexual situations).

But for me as a parent-teacher, the best part of the program is the extensive library of filmed interviews with actors, directors, producers, artists, designers, and (coming soon) technical backstage professionals. You can follow a play from a director's decision to stage it through the process of casting, rehearsing, designing, performing, and finally reviews.

There is also historical background information and literary analysis, also by professionals; the King Lear historical material, for instance, is by a lecturer at the University of Warwick. There are essay questions, as well as advice on how to have students act out scenes from the plays.

My daughter, who is an advanced but very literal reader, has found it easy to pick up the elements of structure, themes, recurring images, foreshadowing, character motivation, and the like when it is visually presented to her rather than in exclusively text-based form. She has also been willing to view socially realistic/domestic dramas like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller plays, when she would resist them in book form (she prefers satire and fantasy).

So besides being a great addition to any literature program or a stand-alone theater credit, the curriculum is really useful for more visual learners and/or dyslexic students who may struggle with more traditionally taught literature. My daughter has been able to transfer over her new understandings to her reading, to my delight.

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