Magazine article NATE Classroom

Discover: National Theatre

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Discover: National Theatre

Article excerpt

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What's in a name? In as language-conscious a sector as theatre education, it's not surprising that many 'Education' departments have been rethinking their names over the past few years. 'Creative Learning' or 'Participation' are common themes among the rush to rebrand that has been sweeping the nation's performing arts organisations, as is the theme of exploration. All of these were key aspects of the National Theatre Education Department's relaunch at the end of August 2008 as discover:National Theatre. A key reason for the name change is the desire to reach out to members of current and potential audiences who wouldn't consider that they might be part of an 'Education' department's remit. Everyone from pre-school toddlers, through young members of the NEET bracket (not currently engaged in Employment, Education or Training) to middle-aged City executives or local pensioners will hopefully feel that they have a right to discover theatre, to discover hidden talents and to discover more about themselves and their relationship with others in society.

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But those in the formal education sector might well be left wondering whether this change represents a shift away from the kind of school-focused work that has become a valued means of curriculum support and enrichment over the past few decades. It's a legitimate concern, but one that can easily be laid to rest. A simple glance at the new website for the National's discover: programme shows that, if anything, the relaunched department has even more on offer than ever before.

At a time when the National is continuing to receive plaudits for the broad and daring nature of its repertoire, an effort is being made to tie in more closely what we offer to schools with the work on the Olivier, Lyttelton and Cottesloe stages (as well as at the venues we tour across the country). For secondary and FE students, this offers a rich forthcoming year of programming, covering everything from Greek theatre, physical theatre and puppetry, to Brecht and Shakespeare. In recognition of the fact that primary school audiences can benefit from work which is specially tailored to them, the discover: programme will be continuing with successful programmes like Primary Shakespeare (this year taking Macbeth on tour around schools); and Word Alive! (which develops literacy through workshops with professional storytellers, and stories told live on the stage of the Olivier by world-class actors and musicians). Other continued programmes include the ever-popular New Connections festival of new plays specifically written for young people to perform. This year, hundreds of schools and youth groups will be performing plays written by an impressive roster of international playwrights. New diversity is brought to the list with a musical, a thriller, a comedy, a physical theatre piece, a multimedia work, a verbatim play and an adaptation of a novel all represented in this year's specially commissioned plays. The published anthology continues to be delivered free to all school libraries.

With this much on offer, the discover: programme will be harnessing the power of the internet to help keep you up-to-date with what's available. The new website at www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/discover is split into two sections. …

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