Thursday, 21 April 2011

Chris Port Blog #220. How To Frame A Feasibility Study For A T.I.E. (Theatre In Education) Company

© Chris Port, Central School of Speech and Drama, 1998

Feasibility study for *********** Theatre Company
Marketing possibilities

**** ******s’ play about the life of **** *******
Prospective client base:
Secondary schools


1. Considerations: Mapped against the general requirements and criteria of the National Curriculum for History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education.

2. A report on an investigation into the implications of school policy requirements and syllabus requirements for secondary and Grant Maintained schools in the London Boroughs of Camden, Hackney and Islington.

[The report intended here was unable to be compiled due to a lack of help from the schools surveyed who were preoccupied with OFSTED audits].

3. Recommendations for future drafts of **** ******s’ play about the life of **** *******.

  • Caveat
  • History
  • Religious Education
  • Personal and Social Education
  • Political issues
  • Legal issues
  • World issues
  • Personal responsibilities
  • Possible Titles

4. Recommendations for possible future plays on the themes of religion and family.

5. Recommendations for possible marketing strategies.

6. Recommendations for future teacher pack styles.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

1. Considerations: Mapped against the general requirements and criteria of the National Curriculum for History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education.

This report is based on an investigation into the general requirements and criteria of the National Curriculum for History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education.

Please refer to the investigation resource before reading this report.

The principal sources of information used in this investigation were:

  • Starting Out With The National Curriculum - An Introduction To The National Curriculum and Religious Education, National Curriculum Council, York 1992.
  • History from 5 to 16, HMSO, London 1988.
  • Personal and Social Education from 5 to 16, HMSO, London 1989.

The conclusions of this investigation for each subject are as follows.


If *********** wish to market a play to a secondary school as an educational aid for teaching history, it should address one or more of the standards of assessment detailed in the investigation (see pp.2-3).

An indirect link between History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education (PSE) has been established in principle by the Department of Education and Science (see p.5).

A model play, designed as an educational aid for teaching History, should avoid anachronisms or inaccuracies (see p.5).

Some historical revisionism is acceptable (e.g. promoting greater awareness of women's roles - see p.5). However, any revisionism should not distort the 'facts' (i.e. the syllabus) to fit a political ideology since this would contravene the DES prescription against political bias (see Appendix - Sensitive and controversial issues: the legal framework' p13.).

Excessive fiction or reliance on anecdotal evidence is not acceptable on the grounds of misrepresentation, inaccuracy or lack of balance (see p.5).

Religious Education

If *********** wish to market a play to a secondary school as an educational aid for teaching Religious Education, it should address one or more of the attainment targets detailed in the investigation (see p.8).

Since these attainment targets are necessarily vague (in order to avoid exclusivity), the suitability of a play dealing with religious themes should be assessed on a particular school's own religious ethos (e.g. a denominational school will probably have a more overt and specific religious ethos than a mixed, multi-ethnic, secular community school which will probably be wary of alienating any one particular religious group).

Sometimes the school's religious ethos will be self-evident in its name; other times it may be advisable to ask the school for the ethno-religious background of its pupils.

Particularly in the case of denominational or multi-ethnic schools, discretion should be exercised in the distribution of material dealing with religious themes to safeguard against inadvertently causing offense (e.g. there may be a fine line to tread between a play which challenges preconceived notions and one that offends established sensibilities). This is largely a matter of ‘common sense’ but it is advisable to establish a school's religious identity (if any) by reference to their school policy documents rather than assuming an anodyne approach.

Personal and Social Education

There are no specific attainment targets or strands of assessment for  *********** to address.

In theory, the range of topics covered by PSE allows a wide scope in choice of subject matter. In practice, however, TIE in PSE will probably focus on health and personal relationships since these are generally perceived (by adults) to be most relevant to young people. This approach may be considered as 'issue-led' drama (e.g. promoting awareness about racism, sexism, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, sexual behaviour, bullying etc.).

Alternatively, in view of PSE's current vague status as a cross-curricular issue, it may be useful for *********** to sharpen the focus by cross-linking with core curriculum subjects such as Mathematics and Science as well as the previously discerned links with History and Religious Education.

The HMI recommended teaching approach for PSE (encouraging pupils to discuss social and moral issue.s - see p.9) lends itself to using TIE as a starting point.

The HMI recommended learning approach for PSE lends itself to role play in TIE (if so desired). Even if audience participation in the actual performance is not required, it may be useful for the teacher to debrief the pupils after the performance using a ‘mantle of the expert’ approach (e.g. the audience role play as experts, say a war crimes trial with an accused, a prosecutor, a defence counsel, witnesses, judge and jury). Consideration should be given to including such scenarios in a teacher's pack.

The objectives of PSE are compatible with TIE methods.

The choice of subject matter and style of presentation should be vetted against relevant local education authority and national policies (see Appendix).

2. A report on an investigation into the implications of school policy requirements and syllabus requirements for secondary and Grant Maintained schools in the London Boroughs of Camden, Hackney and Islington.

[The report intended here was unable to be compiled due to a lack of help from the schools surveyed who were preoccupied with OFSTED audits].

3. Recommendations for future drafts of **** ******s’ play about the life of **** *******.


When possible problems are identified in the first draft of **** *******’, script, these are not artistic criticisms. Since ***********’s client base is currently motivated by a strong neo-positivist outlook, it seems prudent to anticipate possible criticisms from such a viewpoint.

A model play, written solely to accommodate a neo-positivist agenda, would be dully formulaic. There should (and will) be instances when *********** may wish to take the play in a different direction to that suggested by any syllabus or scheme of work (since these documents were obviously never intended to provide dramatic guidelines).


Whenever possible, ****'s personal anecdotes should be contextualized within actual historical events. These events should be specific (e.g. dates, names, places) or of a specific type (e.g. the names of particular procedures) and relevant to the scheme of work. Also, they should not be mere backdrops to the drama but part of it. Otherwise it might seem that events such as the Holocaust were nothing more seminal than changes in ****’s love life.

The narration should show a clear chronology of events and go some way towards illustrating their causes. The narrative should be wary of anachronisms and ‘leaps in time’ as these may interfere with pupils’ understanding of the chronology and causality of events.

In the first draft the chronology of events is erratic. It does not give any clear indication of cause and effect. **** comes across as the survivor of capricious circumstances rather than as a witness to explicable political forces.

****’s ‘Zsa Zsa Gabor’ persona lends itself to hyperbole. While making for good entertainment this does not, however, make for ‘good’ history.

****'s claims to have been involved in actual musicals (e.g. West Side Story and The Sound of Music ) sit uneasily alongside her involvement in obviously fictitious projects (e.g. 'the famous machine gun ballet in the James Bond film, ********' [p.22]). They do not make her seem a particularly credible witness to history. If parts of her testimony are seen to be unreliable, an audience of history students may dismiss all of it.

From a curriculum perspective, there may be an inherent structural problem in the play; ****'s character is not in a position to give a good overview of history; simply having lived through particular times and events is not synonymous with having understood them or being able to explain them.

If this is seen as a problem, there are three possible solutions (although these would involve a radical reworking of the script):

  1. Introducing another actor, a Narrator, to explain the wider context (possibly undesirable from both artistic and commercial viewpoints).
  2. The actress playing **** could adopt a Brechtian style of acting, alternating between the character of **** and the character of a Narrator (possibly undesirable from an artistic viewpoint). 
  3. Rewriting the character of **** so as to, in effect, make her more of a historical Narrator with character and attitude (again possibly undesirable from an artistic viewpoint.

Given History's status as a foundation subject with specific attainment targets, and given the neo-positivist criticisms detailed above, it is unlikely that **** ******s’ first draft script will satisfy the syllabus and schemes of work requirements of History teachers.

Religious Education

There is an obvious opportunity for the play to discuss not only anti-Semitism but also to promote a greater understanding of Judaism and Christianity (and Islam), the congruence of their heritage and the divergence of their history.

In the first draft, there is no promotion of understanding between Judaism and Christianity (or Islam in the later mention of a bomb attack in Israel [p.10]), only references to the conflict between them (e.g. Hugh's mother's anti-Semitism is dismissed rather than understood [p.25]).

******'s fallacious moral equivalence argument (p.33 + 11-13) between Americans killing Germans, Germans killing Jews and Americans planning to kill Russians (fallacious because each can only be used to condemn the other, not to justify it) may provide an opportunity to mention moral equivalence between religions (and the fallacy of using one religion's intolerance to justify the intolerance of another).

Personal and Social Education

The theme of the Holocaust provides an opportunity to examine such issues as:

Political issues: the dangers of extremism and the price of democracy being ‘eternal vigilance'; the dangers of political apathy in young people or a desire for simple and 'final' solutions.

Legal issues: was the Holocaust 'illegal' in Nazi Germany and, if not, what protection is offered by the rule of law; what legislation might actually prevent further genocides or, if legislation is ineffective, what is the point in having universal declarations of human rights?

World issues: does the racial xenophobia of the Nazis have its modern day counterparts elsewhere in the world; what political situations in the modern world raise issues of religious or tribal racism (e.g. Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, Rwandan Tutsis and Hutus, Israelis and Palestinians); can an entire nation be 'guilty'; if not, where were the ‘good’ Germans? (**** doesn’t seem to think that there were any [pp.31-32]).

Personal responsibilities: if, by protecting the life of a stranger, you put the lives of your family at risk, are you being selfish; do your principles count for more than the safety of your parents, partner or children; if your first duty is to protect your family, are you avoiding your moral responsibilities to society; supposing everyone behaved that way; supposing that a stranger refused to help you and your family for the same reasons; on the other side of the problem, suppose you were only 'following orders' to protect yourself and your family; if only following orders which you would not carry out of your own free will, should you be held personally responsible for the consequences of your actions; how can any organization function effectively in time of crisis if its orders are being constantly questioned?

****'s sexual history is 'colourful' which may not sit easily with the current PSE climate of sexual responsibility and restraint. Also, a teenage audience may feel uncomfortable with a septuagenarian talking about her sexual activities.

Given the late Princess Diana's post-mortem near-beatification, name-dropping her into the script (p.17) might cause resentment in some audiences.

Possible Titles


A made-up German word, halfway between a Semitic pun (Juden is the German word for Jews) and the actual German word Schadenfreude (meaning a satisfaction or delight in the misfortune or suffering of another person).

Star Treatment

Another pun, this time referring both to ****'s self-regard for herself as a ‘star’ and the less well regarded treatment of Jews made to wear the Star of David by the Nazis.

Blind And Toothless

This time, both an unkind reference to ****’s old age and a more benevolent reference to an old Jewish proverb which countenances against vengeance: ‘If everyone demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, then the whole world will be left blind and toothless’.

4. Recommendations for possible future plays on the themes of religion and family.

Future plays on the themes of religion and family should be aimed at the National Curriculum requirements for Religious Education and Personal and Social Education (see Investigation Resource and 1. above).

Despite the vagueness of attainment targets for RE, and lack of them for PSE, this should not carry through into ***********'s scheme of work which should aim to narrow the field and sharpen the focus.

There would seem to be two possible routes:

  1. Metaphorical plays examining universal issues in an imaginary or non-specific context.
  2. Fact-based plays examining particular issues in a real or specific context.

In the case of 1), there is a risk of patronizing teenage audiences by over-simplifying issues and using a fable-style more appropriate to younger age groups. It may be taken for granted that the target audiences will be, as a rule, in favour of goodness and against evil (e.g. in favour of tolerance and against racism). For 13 to 15 year-olds, however, there should be an attempt to go beyond this to show that human beings are not always presented with such appealingly simple choices.

‘Young people of fourteen to eighteen ... need recognition but also need to accept the limitations of being human. The choices with which they are now faced may be between different kinds of good and different kinds of evil. Actions can be both good and bad. 'Great analytical plays' are now appropriate, which show people making individual choices and which stimulate the formation of concepts. The big questions raised should be about the human condition itself.’ (Taken from Theatre For The Young by Alan England, Macmillan Education Ltd., London 1990, p.6).

In the case of 2) there is a risk of straying into politically sensitive territory which may cause offense to members of the audience, the school, the local authorities or particular sections of society, or risk breaching the legal framework surrounding sensitive and controversial issues (see Appendix). Great deftness of artistic footing will be needed to tread the fine line between challenging preconceived notions and offending established sensibilities. It also seems self-evident that secondary schools will be unlikely to book a play which is going to cause them any subsequent embarrassment or complaint.

Examples of ‘safe’ issues are plays which promote an anti-racist or anti-sexist message.

Examples of sensitive issues best avoided might be: the Vatican's alleged knowledge of, and lack of protest at, the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II (not likely to be well received by Roman Catholic schools); any attempt to condone (or refuse to condemn) the activities of terrorist organizations in the UK (e.g. the IRA or loyalist paramilitary groups); any attempt to examine gay issues which gives the impression of ‘promoting’ homosexuality (see Appendix re. Clause 28); issues such as abortion where there are clearly defined and irreconcilable moral standpoints (it is likely that some treatment in a play will appear to lend sympathy or favour to one side of the debate more than the other; in the case of irreconcilable differences, a refusal to condemn must be seen as condoning and vice versa).

From the above examples a common factor becomes apparent; any issues which are likely to provoke heated or emotional debate are best avoided from a bookings point of view. This may seem paradoxical (surely these are exactly the issues which should be debated by teenagers) but the current neo-positivist educational climate is a little chilly and would rather leave such raw meat in deep-freeze.

5. Recommendations for possible marketing strategies.

  • Use the database resource to mailshot History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education departments with details of projects appropriate to their schemes of work or curriculum guidelines.
  • Mailshot History, Religious Education and Personal and Social Education departments of database schools at the time of their budget allocations. (******* ********** ***s' school confirmed their budgets are received in March).
  • Mailshot artwork should be eye-catching (to avoid going unread from desk to bin). Red and black are strong colours (also very dramatic without being inappropriately bright or gaudy). Keep it simple. One striking image will usually grab the attention more than a complexity of images which may prove irritating if they take too much time to study. I suggest appealing to the junk mail-fickle adult eye here.
  • Promotional literature should be kept to one A4 sheet explaining the relevance of the product to the relevant schemes of work or curriculum guidelines.
  • If the product has already been produced at other schools, include any appropriate plaudits.

6. Recommendations for future teacher pack styles.

See section 1. on Personal and Social Education for suggestion of a role play war crimes trial.

Teacher packs at secondary school level will have to be much more detailed and fact-based than those previously done by *********** at primary school level; extensive research will have to be done relevant to the syllabus and scheme of work.

Especially in the area of Personal and Social Education, there seems to be scope for role play exercises wherever moral dilemmas occur. The teacher’s pack should summarize the competing points of view to be considered and propose a forum for their discussion (e.g. an imaginary war crimes trial). In order to facilitate flexible debate rather than entrenched attitudes, students might be asked to play Devil's Advocate to their own personal opinions or to switch sides half way through a debate to support the other viewpoint. In other words, students should be encouraged to see moral dilemmas from perspectives other than their own and develop the ability to articulate their reasons for choosing one viewpoint rather than another.

Adversarial discussion from a variety of predetermined viewpoints is likely to increase the students knowledge of the scheme of work, the issues involved, and the possible arguments for and against particular interpretations.

This concludes my report.

© Chris Port, Central School of Speech and Drama, 1998

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