Julie Woffington, executive director, Educational Theatre Association, answers questions from EdTA member Kendra Dando about arts and education.
Dando: Why are the arts, specifically theatre arts, essential in today's world? And what role does EdTA play in this?
Woffington: In today's 24/7 high-tech world, the ability to engage others and make a real, live connection is more important than ever. Theatre arts are the expression of what makes us human. Theatre enables us to connect to others and, just as important, to understand and interpret the messages we are receiving. EdTA works to support broad access to theatre for all students by advocating for it in schools and creating resources for educators to enrich their theatre programs. If students experience theatre when they are young, they will become participants for life, which will help the arts continue to flourish.
What do you see as the ideal relationship between art and education?
The arts are the secret weapon of education. Education in America is evolving to teach the skills required to compete in the 21st century: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication, all of which are learned through theatre. Moreover, when students are involved in the arts, they are engaged in school overall. They have lower dropout rates and are more motivated.
What is the play that changed your life?
I performed in my very first play, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, when I was 9 years old. When I was up on the stage as Snoopy, belting out "Suppertime," I first experienced that adrenaline, that high, that gave me confidence. It is this same confidence that enabled me, 30 years later, to stand up for what I believe in in the corporate world.