5.1975 – Berlin - GDR

The Professional Actor and School

Minutes of the ASSITEJ Congress : Monday, 21 April

"The keynote speeches on the subject 'The professional actor and the school' were held by Mr. José Geal, Belgium, and Dr. Christel Hoffman, GDR.
Mr. Geal once more explained why the title was called 'The professional actor and the school' because it was a question of the many-sided relations between the professional theatre and the schools and not the theatre in the school or for the school. Quoting Leon Chancerel, he warned of the so-called 'pedaloges' and underlined that theatre must remain first and foremost the affair of theatrical workers. Still, in working on plays for young people, the collaboration of people working in education was always desirable. The speaker then made some observations on what he was able to see in the Berlin 'Theater der Freundschaft' which he considered one of the most interesting, best and, perhaps, even the most advanced children's theatre. He went into detail in his praise of the role of a central theatre of this kind which is technically fully equipped and much better than a theatre which has to tour schools and badly equipped halls; the work of an educational department within the theatre itself; the close contact between the artists and their young audience.
He stressed the value of arousing enthusiasm in a young audience in introducing them to the theatre, and he quoted the Belgian educator Jeanne Cappe who wrote about children's theatre that "It must use the simplest means fort the most effective results. Nothing is good for our children, which is not done with great honesty.''
Dr. Hoffmann spoke about the differences and similarities between the effects of theatre and school on the development of the personality of young people. She stated that the theatre is not a continuation of the classroom. It speaks the language of art and has no other. This is why the attitude of the actor is not that of a teacher. But the theatre and the school are partners in developing the socialist personality, are in agreement as to the content and purpose of their work and are part of the general socialist system of education. The theatre is not an educationalist but the educationalist provides it with important information about its audience.
The speaker then spoke about children playing theatre at school, something to which great attention is paid because there is a dialectical relationship between understanding theatre and producing it. But it would be false to set works of art aside and replace them with games because a child is not capable of creating his own social emancipation.
The school as a subject dealt with in the theatre: The speaker dealt with the certain aesthetic difficulties such as the convincing portrayal of the process of learning on the stage, presenting teacher and pupil roles realistically, the problem of dealing with conflicts too much from the standpoint of adults.
The usefulness of personal contacts between actors and pupils was underlined. The actor gets to know the opinions, associations and observations of his audience. The pupils make new discoveries by describing and telling and these discoveries are at the same time taking roots in their consciousness.
Actors are only good partners and animateurs of children's play-acting games if they have appropriate educational abilities. More important is the contact between actors and pupils who voluntarily form hobby groups to deal with problems of the dramatic arts, because here the actor can go beyond his work on the stage in teaching aesthetic values, and can make the pupils conscious of the special nature of a work of art which aesthetically reflects reality.
Finally Dr. Hoffmann quoted some answers by pupils to the question, "What is an actor?”, and summarized by saying that the children did not state that the actor is a kind of teacher. The actor and the teacher are, for the children, perfectly normal creative people who do good work each in his own way.
The text of the two speeches was handed to all delegates."
(5th ASSITEJ Congress, 19 to 26 April 1975, Berlin, GDR, 3-5)

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