Southbank International School Drama, Free Arts & Theatre teacher Kym Martin discusses the power of performing arts to deliver skills that last long beyond the drama on the stage

Southbank International School students recently performed The Addams Family Musical, postponed from February 2021. The musical was a glorious success and was the first time in two years that the whole school community was able to come together. Having been a Drama and Theatre teacher for 27 years, it was one of the most magical experiences I have had in the profession. It also further consolidated my firm belief in the power of performing arts to equip young people with the confidence and life skills for their future, whatever path they choose.

Southbank International on the power of performing arts
There is no right or wrong in drama, which invites young people to be bold, creative and – crucially – to take risks

Exploration and experimentation

Drama and Theatre provides a platform for exploration and experimentation. That’s the reason a play is called a play – not a ‘work’ – because it enables you to be imaginative, creative and expressive, and crucially, to take risks and move outside your comfort zone. This links directly to real life, where people are forever having to take risks and embrace change. As human beings we often find change difficult but, in truth, change is the only certain thing in life. In our classes and rehearsal rooms, we embrace change amid the realisation that there is no right or wrong in Drama and Theatre, only choices to make in a creative journey.

The performer/audience relationship also plays a key role in helping to develop students’ ability to evaluate and to take on board constructive criticism. As part of the IB Diploma Theatre assessments, students are given feedback from the audience in the form of talkback sessions, or as written responses. This active collaboration equips students with the self-confidence to give and receive feedback graciously and – importantly – to consider how to take their work forward. This is an invaluable skill for later in life, as they will inevitably meet people with different perspectives to their own. Through this collaborative relationship and art form we can ask big questions about life and what it means to be human.

Building on this, performing arts fosters a greater sense of collaboration among young people, helping to teach them that, while they won’t always get on with everyone they work with, they can always problem solve and find ways to work together. This is true not only in the workplace, but in private life and across society as a whole.

Southbank International on the power of performing arts
The dramatic journey fosters confidence and self-belief – and real bravery – says Southbank International School’s Kym Elliston

Confidence and self-belief

Above all else, performing arts fosters confidence and self-belief in young people. I’m always in awe of the way in which students are able to stand up in front of their peers and share their ideas and performance skills. Drama and Theatre demands that they use their whole being as their instrument – intellect, emotions, body and voice. This is an incredibly brave thing to do and takes training to get better at, but something I’ve come to understand is that young people are not often marred by the fears that adults tend to accrue as they get older. This self-assurance is bolstered by the safe environment we set up in the drama classroom, a safety net where students feel comfortable, happy and encouraged to try new things.

“Self-assurance is bolstered by the safe environment in the drama classroom – a safety net where students feel encouraged to try new things”

In the 20 years that I have been teaching in the UK, I have had several dozens of DP Theatre students attain places at Russell Group Universities, and at US colleges such as NYU, Brown and Vassar. These students have gone on to study a wide range of courses. First hand feedback from university admissions is that they welcome the breadth of study that taking Theatre at Diploma level can give students and are impressed by the confidence with which Theatre students demonstrate the highly transferable skills that are desirable to these universities. Studying performing arts also fosters discipline and focus, two essential skills for study and for life.

With digital innovation accelerating the pace of change at a faster rate than ever before, studying Drama and Theatre places an onus on personal connection and sharing a sense of common humanity which, in simple terms, is nothing short of ‘being’ human. So, as the world continues to change and the scholastic focus remains on encouraging digital skills through the study of STEM subjects, let’s not forget the enormous power of performing arts in preparing young people for a brighter future.

Southbank International School

Further reading: More House School on the importance of creative platforms