When my Head teacher asked myself and a colleague to go along to a performance space in Digbeth to find out more about the work of Open Theatre, little did I know where the evening would take us. As English teachers we were used to some performing but even so, surrounded by professional ‘performers’ placed us well and truly out of our comfort zone. Interacting with Richard during the session was uncomfortable but we hung in there and there was a growing realisation that Open Theatre’s practice could have a huge impact on the lives of our pupils at Wilson Stuart.
That evening allowed a glimpse into our future curriculum reimagined by Open Theatre’s inclusive approach to learning disabilities. The simplicity of the non verbal, physical theatre allows all of our students to communicate during every single session – a huge achievement. Every week our students joyfully anticipate their drama sessions – they are engaged and happy and as a teacher you cannot fail to feel uplifted by this celebration of their differences. It’s drama and performing in the most unconventional sense, yet it has provided the catalyst for change at Wilson Stuart, forming a mainstay of our Communication curriculum.
Our partnership with Open Theatre has gone from strength to strength since that first ‘uncomfortable’ session – from weekly sessions to parent workshops, from sensory performances to teacher CPD- nothing is too much. Open Theatre has enriched our curriculum and we look forward to developing the practice still further – our future will be redefined by the work of Open Theatre – thank goodness we recognised the need to step out of our comfort zone all those years ago.
Written by Trish Bowden (Wilson Stuart)