Drama/Theatre Pedagogy – A Different History?

Vlado Krušić

To Cite this Article

Krušić, V. (2015). Drama/Theatre Pedagogy – A Different History? p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org, 2http://p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org/?p=1188


The author highlights the main results of his recent research which has been conducted with the aim to explore the understandings and practices of the educational use of drama and theatre in the history of modern Croatian culture and pedagogy. Specifying the main paradigms existing in the actual field of drama/theatre education worldwide the author traced their origins and roots in the documents, events, persons and experiences that made part of the Croatian cultural and educational development going back into the first half of the 19th century, the period known as the age of the Croatian national revival, when the cultural and political foundations of the modern Croatian civic society have been laid. Although the research has been focused and restricted to a rather narrow frame of a small and at that time highly underdeveloped national culture, its findings strongly suggest a different reading of history and development of the contemporary drama/theatre pedagogy in general.


Drama education, theatre education, modern history of Croatian culture and Croatian pedagogy, paradigms of drama and theatre pedagogy.

In this article I will deal with issues which I more exhaustively researched in my doctoral thesis dedicated to the development of drama or/and theatre pedagogy and related ideas and practices in the modern Croatian history.[1] At the beginning of my research I deduced a number of paradigms present in the contemporary practices and theories of drama and/or theatre pedagogy and decided to find their examples, or just traces and ideas of them, in the Croatian cultural and pedagogic past. Quite naturally the first models which came to my mind were the practices and theories of drama education in the English speaking countries, the most powerful wellspring of educational drama work worldwide in the last fifty years. It is true that in the second half of the 20th century predominantly the Anglo-Saxon teachers and theoreticians cleared up the ground for drama education throughout the world and created the dominant matrix for understanding not only the modern drama education in general but also its history and development as a specific educational field. It can also be argued that the predominance of the Anglo-Saxon concepts, visible and strongly present also in the practices and theoretical reflections in many non-English countries and cultures, was greatly the consequence of a global outspread and influence of the English as a modern world language of science and international communication.[2]

But there are also significant exceptions to this influence like, for instance, in the Roman countries and cultures – Italy, Spain, Portugal, most of the Latin American countries, and of course in France and francophone countries. On the other hand, some Central and Eastern European countries which for decades have been for political reasons dissected from the so called “Western world”, although they quickly embraced and joined the dominant influences in contemporary drama education, continued also to work on and develop their own educational traditions mainly based on and referred to as theatre education.[3] For such reasons I tried to define the main paradigms taking in consideration the whole actual field of drama and theatre education, in different social and cultural contexts, countries and languages. I derived them from openly declared or just recognized stances and positions of contemporary protagonists of drama/theatre education, as well as from the practices and experiences from other pedagogic contexts and cultural or simply theatre traditions. They were conceived as a set of professional (aesthetical, ethical and obviously pedagogical) convictions and attitudes about the educational benefits and effects of drama or theatre work. Condensed in some generalised values and commitments these beliefs and attitudes, in my opinion, permeate, drive and direct, consciously or unconsciously, the individual and collective activities of those who are working in the field of educational drama and theatre and provide them with sense and purpose of their work.

I listed the following paradigms (as well as some derivations) adding to each of them some of their contemporary representatives:

  1. Philosophic or anthropologic (whole encompassing) paradigm:

DRAMATIC CAPACITY AS BASIC HUMAN FEATURE/VALUE (Richard Courtney’s humanizing quality of “as if being“)

  1. Pedagogic paradigms:
  • CHILD’S DRAMATIC PLAY AS VALUE IN ITSELF (Child’s Drama > Peter Slade, Brian Way)
  • DRAMATIC ACTIVITY AS LEARNING AND TEACHING MEDIUM (Dorothy Heatcote, Gavin Bolton, DiE, classroom/process drama)
  • THEATRE AS VALUE IN ITSELF (predominantly French and German tradition)
  • THEATRE AS EXERCISE (personal development; learning and acquiring communicational and expressive skills)
  • THEATRE AS PRODUCTION (expression and stance of an individual or a group)
  • THEATRE FOR TEACHING THE SPECTATORS (Theatre for Children and Youth, Brecht, Theatre in Education)
  1. Ideological paradigms:
  • THEATRE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL CHANGE (Brecht, politically engaged theatre, Boal)

These are generalized matrixes some of which contain, as we see, also some more specific distinctions, some of them merge and some are very conditionally delimited from each other. Drama and theatre educationalists accept and embrace them as reasons, goals and justifications of their work, and in many cases as a way, a method, or even genre of their personal work.

The main and much greater part of my research consisted in searching for the examples of these paradigmatic matrixes in the modern history of Croatian pedagogy and/or theatre. More precisely my work, especially in its initial phase, has been conducted by modest expectations to find at least signs and some anticipations of educational use of drama/theatre in the period in which, as it has been generally assumed, the history of the modern drama education started, i.e. in the beginning and in the first half of the 20th century. However, the reading of the available pedagogic and theatre publications, of documents and archives of that time offered not only traces and hints of the researched subject, but disclosed a period dating back to the first half of the 19th century abundant in theatre and drama activities bearing educational stamp or intention, both with children and adults, inside and outside the school system. Moreover, the findings of that period, by their high level of conceptualisation and pedagogical background, confirmed that it was not the result of just a happy moment in the history of a particular culture, but of intensive, engaged and dynamic pedagogic life, which obviously has been developing continuously for many years, in which the practices and theories that appeared in the international pedagogic arena were seriously checked, debated, worked upon, criticized or defended and developed or rejected. I had to broaden the research and reorient it deeper in the past, which in fact brought me to the beginnings of the modern Croatian society and culture, i.e. to the Croatian national and cultural revival movement of the 1830s and 1840s which has set up the ideological and political foundations for the further development of the Croatian civic society and culture.

The final outcome of my investigation was a chronological overview of ideas and concepts, of individuals, groups and institutions contributing and participating in the development of practices and theories referring to and concerning the uses of drama or/and theatre for educational – as well as for ideological[4] – purposes as they appeared in the modern Croatian history, i.e. since the “Croatian national revival” in the first half of the 19th century until the end of the Second World War. As I said, the paradigms conceived at the beginning of my work served as check references, as indicators of ideas, concepts and activities which nowadays are regarded as being part of the actual vast and not strictly delimited field of drama/theatre work with educational aims and purposes. Almost all of them – partly or completely, but most often as a specific variant – found their realisation and application in the context of Croatian pedagogic, theatre or cultural life. Moreover, although the research has been carried out on a narrow sample of the social and cultural history of an apparently small and peripheral Croatian culture, its implications are much farther reaching beyond the borders of national language, mentality or culture. As in its modern past Croatia made part of several different cultural zones and ideological systems, each of them leaving its marks, both positive and negative, on ideas, practices and people present and active in the field of drama/theatre pedagogy of the period, the findings of my research might well be revealing for drama/theatre educational practices and their respective histories in other national cultures which passed through similar historical conditions and experiences, as well as for the wider cultural zones and their dominant and most influential actors and tendencies.

I will sustain this assumption by highlighting several moments and topics in which a number of themes, concepts and commitments – regarded today as being part of current drama/theatre pedagogy and considered to be of relatively recent descent – had already been treated, elaborated and worked upon at some earlier instance of the considered period and most often in specific contexts.

One of the most general insights of the research was that in fact all paradigmatic models recognized in the investigated period found their concretization as parts of a global idea of cultural and political construction of the Croatian nation, from its start conceived as a long term and a long reaching project devised and launched by the “fathers of the nation”, a tiny elite of the liberally oriented and nationally conscious intellectuals and cultural workers who conceived and lead the Croatian national revival movement in the first half of the 19th century and who, together with their disciples and supporters, in the decades to follow, i.e. in the second half of the century, endeavoured and strived hard to found and build up the institutions and structures of the modern Croatian civic society and culture. In the political and cultural revival of the 1830s and 1840s, as the schooling opportunities in Croatian regions were very modest and, until 1845, exclusively in German, Hungarian and Latin languages, it was the theatre which in the initial phase of the national awaking had been assigned a special educational role.

In this global national project the theatre was imagined to be the tool (or “lever”, as they called it) of educating the people, i.e. raising their national self-awareness and uniting them by common language (which, apart from several dialects spoken in different parts of Croatian territories, until then did not exist). The understanding of education in such a context and in such a project obviously was much wider and in its core an ideological one. The idea of the “theatre as a tool” has been taken from and backed up by the famous Friedrich Schiller’s essay “Theater Considered as a Moral Institution” written and publicly pronounced in 1784 as a defence of theatre art and its critical, ethical and educational power and impacts. In one of the programmatic articles of the Croatian national revival, entitled “On the Founding of the National Theatre” and published in 1845, Mirko Bogović (1816 – 1893), poet and dramatist , skipping the more extensive parts of the Schiller’s essay elaborating the much more emphasized critical function of theatre in regard to social and moral issues, refers to the role of theatre in building the “spirit of the nation” and quotes the following passage: “I cannot possibly neglect to mention the great influence that a fine standing theatre would have upon the spirit of our nation. (…) Only the stage is capable of eliciting a high degree of such agreement, because it ranges throughout the entire domain of human knowledge, exhausts all the situations of life, and pokes its rays into the heart’s every cranny; because within it, it unites all classes and social strata, and can boast the most well-beaten pathway to our heart and our understanding.”[5] Paraphrasing Schiller’s words Bogović further on concludes that it is high time “to make an effort to found the national theatre, because from all sides we hear desires to open for our people, awaked from the spiritual deadness, the school of living – theatre.” (Bogović , 1968; 236)

Although such a concept of a national theatre institution spreading and developing national spirit might seem alien and contrary to the current ideas of theatre for development and social change or theatre as expression and confirmation of a social group or community, since both concepts were modelled mostly upon the practices of theatre work with small, local and very often marginalized or even oppressed groups and communities, at the moment when the article was written, as well as in the time period of two decades that followed, such understanding of theatre as a “school of living” was not a pure metaphor. In a predominantly illiterate and until recently feudal society partly still organized as a military territory, with a small number of schools in which the teaching was in a foreign language, in which the voice of the arising class of citizens and local intelligence just started to make itself heard in a few cities that hardly could bear this title,[6] the social and cultural reformers sought for means to communicate their ideas and ideals to a wider audience. They found it, and used it, in the printed media on one side (newspapers and books in newly conceived common Croatian language and writing), and in the – spoken – medium of theatre on the other. In the next two decades following the peak of the national revival movement, which happened with the revolution of 1848, and acting after its downfall, in circumstances of disillusionment and general oppression by the imperial Austrian government, the national reformists and their partisans organised theatre events and performances, wrote and performed several plays in Croatian, recently proclaimed as official language, even produced the first Croatian opera, declaring and regarding their engagement as a patriotic and cultural mission. Most of their activity and dedication has been done on the amateur basis and funded from the private resources of the followers and supporters. Their endeavours bore all attributes of the above mentioned paradigms designated as ideological, their principal function being social, political and cultural prise de conscience through the medium of theatre. But already at this stage the idea of theatre, of its social function and cultural value developed by the national cultural reformists contained the characteristics of another paradigm – that of the theatre as value in itself, expressed in the claim of establishing the national theatre institution as a “temple” of national theatre art, the utmost and most complete of all arts as understood in the spirit of Hegelian aesthetics, and a hotbed of national spirit and creative genius.

In 1861, in a short interlude of political détente, the Croatian parliament brought decision to establish the national theatre as a State institution. Three years later, in 1864, a prominent reformist and at that time one of the first regular theatre critics, Ivan Filipović,[7] wrote another important programmatic article “National Theatre As State Institution”, in which the initial aims of the central theatre institution – i.e. “spreading our literary language”, “strengthening national self-awareness” and “expanding morality” – has been reprogrammed and submitted to a more general aim: “Because every art, and so the art of theatre, has its specific purpose independent of the worldly interests.”, writes Filipović and continues: “Although the purpose of art is not to teach the language, educate national self-awareness or preach morality, yet the perfection of language in which it speaks to us and enthusiasm for everything that is beautiful and good, which no doubt includes also morality and love for homeland, of course in absolute sense and not as dictated by the prejudices of the ever changing times, are the virtues inseparable from the art even when it doesn’t have to serve to anyone but only follows its unearthly instinct and, free of any bonds, raises on its slender wings to the source of the eternal beauty.” (Filipović, 1864/20; 2)

Highlighting the specific “artistic purpose” of theatre institution and freeing it ultimately from any ideological or pedagogic obligation Filipović helped install a new paradigm of the “artistic institution”, defined in terms of classical bourgeois aesthetics and expected to generate the works of art of high quality and good taste institutionalizing in this way and concretizing not only the matrix of the theatre as value in itself but also the arts as value in itself. Targeted in the first place upon the recently established professional theatre institution, upon its artistic and cultural function and especially upon new criteria of perceiving and evaluating its productions, this paradigmatic shift, on the other hand, conceded to other kinds of theatre activities, in the first place to theatre amateurs, to justify their activity either by recreational reasons as communal or family amusement or by trying to achieve some social, ideological or even religious goal. From the late 1860s up to the First World War in 1914, the amateur theatre groups – local, communal or municipal, belonging to cultural or sporting clubs and organisations, to churches, political parties, youth and women organisations or labour unions – constantly increased in number operating with different reasons and purposes. Although a great majority of these was a mere and unpretentious fun and social recreation, many of the more serious and culturally ambitious productions could have been assorted under the already mentioned ideological paradigms especially in cases when the amateurs produced pieces of really authentic art mostly achieved in productions based upon local subjects and language and performed in realistic codes of representation and acting. In the new historical period, in between the two world wars, as well as in the new State, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes,[8] this vivid field of social and cultural life turned into one of the best organized national amateur theatre movements in Europe with its own programme and ideology which consisted in resurrecting the original goals of the Croatian national revival of hundred years ago enhanced by the claim, correspondent to the then contemporary tendencies in classical music enchanted with folkloristic influences, to strive and look for the “national theatre expression” and “national character in acting”.

The first concepts of the educational use of theatre/drama medium in the school context, i.e. for teaching school children, appeared with a gradual development of the national school system foreseen and conceived as another important “lever” in building modern civic Croatian society. The schooling in Croatia, as a national system, emerged in 1860s after the basic schooling structures and institutions (university, schools for teachers) have been established and regulated by the State laws and when the seeds of national pedagogy have been planted and eventually disseminated through the newly created and liberally oriented teachers’ organisations as well as through the professional pedagogic publications. It was, logically, the idea of theatre as educational tool which was first publicly conceptualized by liberal teachers, but with an important restriction – it had nothing to do with the professional and commercial theatre which was almost to the end of the 19th century traditionally considered to be a threat to the chastity and moral development of the youth. What was in fact taken up from a more general idea of theatre was, firstly, the matrix of practical work (written text-rehearsals-presentation), and secondly, the concept – vaguely inherited from didactic theatre of the church schools in the 18th century – of theatre having power to educate the children by presenting the examples of good and bad moral behaviour. The concept developed on the margin of the educational context, in the social space that opened up with the appearance of public printing and publishing, with newspapers and books published as products and contributions to a newly established civic and cultural public life. The first booklets of short and simple plays for children players appeared in 1866. They were written by teachers and aimed to be followed by new editions, which as a matter of fact did not happen. However, the plays for children began to appear in the public magazines for children, the first of them, called “Immortelle”, being started in 1873. In the period until the First World War altogether 36 plays were published in it, but in the years around the turn of the centuries the independently published collections of plays also appeared, written as a rule by teachers, but not necessarily as school plays. In these publications throughout the second half of the 19th century we see a sign of growing performing practices with children inside and outside the school life which in the new century to come served as a basis for intensive development of the children and youth theatre in the public cultural space, as well as for the future flourishing of drama activities and methodologies in the school work in between the two world wars. From the beginning, i.e. from the first booklet published in 1866, as we read in its “Introduction” written by the author and by the publisher, the theatre activities of young participants have been described as a “path to self-awareness” contributing to the “development of mind and morals” as well as to a “decent conduct, easy motion and free public speaking, which is so important for the future civic life of the youth”. Interestingly, the author, Anton Truhelka (1832 – 1877), another prominent teacher of the period, in his advocacy of active participation in theatre performance does not speak about acting, but about “dramatic play” of children stressing once again the essential difference between this activity and participation – either as spectators or performers – in “theatres for adults, which often seeds a germ of immorality into the young souls”. (Truhelka, 1866. III) The paradigm underlying this approach is very clearly the pedagogic one that sees theatre as exercise for living, more particularly as activity contributing to personal development of participants and acquisition of communicational and expressional skills so needed for participation in the (building of) modern civic society.

Theatre plays as well as simpler public performances with children (recitations, tableaux vivants, masquerades, singings and simple choreographies) were staged and performed mostly on various social occasions in the schools or in the family circles. Along with these publicly more visible actions various forms of drama work also developed in the classrooms with no intention to be performed outside the school. By the turn of the centuries all these types of theatre or dramatic work with children, inside and outside schools, were recognized as a specific cluster of educational activities worth to be classified and described as a worthy methodology. So at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1906, in one of the volumes of the Croatian Pedagogic Encyclopaedia, the article entitled Dramatic performing in school has been published, which exhaustively describes dramatic work in school as a specific form of educational usage of dramatic expression which has its characteristics and its specific goals. The author, Tomislav Ivkanec (1844 – 1912), one of highly respected pedagogues of the time, for this kind of work uses also a common term “school theatre”. The article is accompanied with a historical insight in which the beginning of the school theatre is settled in the humanistic schools of the 15th and 16th century and its highlights recognized, first, in the Jesuit church theatre of the 17th century, and second, in didactic concepts of theatre by theoreticians and dramatists of the German Enlightment of 18th century. A special attention has been dedicated to a Chech pedagogue Jan Amos Komensky (1592 – 1670), one of the creators of modern education, presenting him as a kind of a hero of educational drama. “We mention him in the first place”, wrote Ivkanec, “not because his plays excel by depth of poetic form or by being of any greater influence, but because he was the first to offer in his plays the whole real encyclopaedia.” In the last part of the article Ivkanec summarizes current experiences with dramatic performing in Croatian schools and lists the effects of dramatic work not only upon pupils-spectators but primarily upon the pupils-participants in dramatic activity. Among effects usually mentioned (exercising speech and public communication skills, personal growth and self-esteem, collective work, aesthetic feeling and taste, self-assurance) the author stresses some gains which sound quite unusually for his time, but very actually to us, almost as taken from some contemporary drama education handbook: “Just as someone who seeks to understand the past researches the language, social and cultural circumstances and imagines being taken to some historical period, so it is useful for a pupil to step out from his own “self” and step in the role of people of different nature and speak through them. Not only that in this way one exercises skills needed in life and society, but one gets to know others’ characters, passions and learns tolerance toward those who are thinking differently.” (Ivkanec, 1906; 217-219)

In Ivkanec’s encyclopedic article dramatic performing of children has been for the first time in modern Croatian pedagogical literature described and defined as a special form of the educational use of dramatic expression that has its own specific features, its history and its protagonists, its field of action and tasks different from the theatre as an art and as a profession. His summary confirms that by the end of the 19th century among Croatian teachers there was a clear awareness of the benefits and possibilities of such a work, although most of those who have practiced it understood it and accepted it not as an autonomous pedagogical and methodological field, but as part of different pedagogical – and poetic – concepts.

It should be stated again that these endeavours were not just sporadic and random cases, but made part of wider didactic concepts which were discussed and developed inside the young and ambitious Croatian pedagogical context. Since 1859, when the first Croatian pedagogic magazine Progress was first published, we meet a number of “big” pedagogical themes that were permanently present in Croatian pedagogic literature. One of them, for instance, was the pedagogy based upon the “child’s play” which, encompassing all sorts of child’s plays and games, has been present, debated and elaborated in progressive European pedagogies ever since Pestalozzi and his successors until today. In Croatia, as early as in 1868, the “child’s play” pedagogy was advocated as a kind of antiauthoritarian approach to the child’s personality and development. The “child’s play” approach was continually theorized as well as elaborated in school practice. Croatian education can praise with three published collections of children’s games between 1878 and 1896, the last one, containing over 400 games, being the result of a hugely launched campaign in which the teachers all over Croatia participated as researchers and recorders of children’s games.

Another global theme was, of course, the “arts/aesthetic education”. From the 1862 onward we meet articles in Croatian pedagogic literature advocating – and by the end of the 19th century seriously discussing and even disputing – the important role of arts or aesthetic education in the schools. The polemics was strongest in the first decade of the 20th century, when the devoted partisans of the aesthetic education organized themselves in a “movement for aesthetic education”, a reflection of the international strivings for arts education,[9] which spread out throughout Europe, especially in German influenced countries and cultures. And Croatia, as a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was one of them. It is interesting that, although it was not focused exclusively upon the visual arts and crafts or music, the Croatian movement for aesthetic education almost completely disregarded the active participation of children in drama or theatre activities as a kind of aesthetic education; it assigned the role of a true art only to the products of the professional theatre. However, their disregard of the existing and growing drama and theatre activities in schools, although strange it might seem to us today, in fact suggests that then existing drama and theatre activities were not regarded as education in the arts, but rather as a way of training social and communicational skills, a kind of practical exercise in public appearance and performance, as well as a kind of moral education through enacting the exemplary situations.

This brings us to another big theme occupying the minds of Croatian educationalists: the concept of experiential learning through concrete examples by using (i.e. watching, seeing, touching, operating, handling) concrete objects, beings, situations and processes, for instance raising school gardens or farms, going to the natural or social environment to experience and learn the related set of knowledge etc. So in Croatian pedagogic theory from its beginnings the idea of “learning by doing”, advocated and elaborated in several practical concepts in the last decades of the 19th century, naturally made part of such pedagogic approaches which had their most powerful development in several movements in the first half of the 20thcentury. One of the strongest was the movement of the “school of work” (Arbeitschulle) elaborated by German pedagogues in the first decades of the 20th century, in which dramatic activities had very prominent and highly appreciated place. The principles and methods of German educationalists were embraced by Croatian pedagogues and further elaborated in their own contexts before and after the First World War. Together with the other progressive educational movements of the period like Montessori school, Dalton’s system, “active school”, John Dewey’s educational philosophy etc., the ideas and methods of the “school of work” formed the theoretical frame of the “new school” which was the umbrella cover for many different tendencies which all had one focus – a pupil centred, creative and inspiring school aiming not on cramming the quantities of facts but on gaining experience and developing competences. In this way drama and theatre pedagogy acquired an appropriate set of values and supporting philosophy and at the same time became one of the tools of the “new school” which then made the frame and basis for an impressively rich and remarkable blooming of drama and theatre practices with children, inside and outside schools, in the 1920s and 1930s.

In comparison to the preceding period, the first glance upon the published children plays between the two world wars convincingly tells us that the situation has changed. From 1919 to 1940 we count 124 titles published, 27 in the twenties and 97 in the thirties. The children plays were demanded extensively, there existed a market for very different kinds of plays. The children performances were not anymore occasional school events or a family entertainment; they were performed on the stages of the official theatres becoming public events for the wide audience. The children and the youth were being recognized as a specific kind of audience and the professional theatre starts to fight for their affection. Finally, at that period the first public children and youth theatres are being established and we also find the first polemics among the practitioners in the field about the goals and purposes of this kind of work.

Inside schools an intensive methodological work was being developed giving a more distinctive shape to procedures and techniques of drama work within the classroom. The proper terminology was being created instead of borrowing it from the professional theatre jargon. Certain techniques and proceedings are being highlighted, like dramatization, which can be applied to any non-dramatic piece of text, then improvisation as an important method of drama work with children and youth; the cognitive, psychological and social effects of drama activity are being evaluated, for the first time the term role-playing is being used and the difference was made between the so called free dramatic performing and the text bound dramatic performing, the first referring to dramatized and improvised forms of work, and the second referring to the work built upon the written play. In building the didactical models of teaching different issues and subjects in the spirit of the “school of work” some teachers created examples of real process drama procedures with not only the pupils taking roles, but using – not nominally but factually – the teacher in role and the mantle of the expert techniques. In advocating educational gains by using drama and theatre techniques they used very modern arguments. The playing potential of the child should be used for the educational purposes because “in playing, the child’s psychic and physical capacities could be developed, especially productivity”. (Knežević, 1936; 40) “The children are productive while performing; they act out and express their individuality in community with other players, they start to develop social feelings. All psychic functions – intellect, emotions and will – find their expression there.” (Ibid; 40) “The instinct for playing and performing, self-activity and productivity, individuality and sociability, identification and empathy, as well as the growth of aesthetic and ethic sensitiveness, all of these necessitate the need for as much drama and theatre work with the school children as possible.” (Ibid; 41)

This rich and intensive activity – advocated in all its different aspects as an interlaced and connected field of progressive and worthy cultural and educational contribution to building modern society with the individual and his/her personality, creativity and social responsibility in its centre – after almost hundred years of its continual development met its end and disintegration during the cataclysm of the Second World as result of drastic political changes and, as consequence, of aggressive ideological pressures by a political force which came to power in the first years of the war. In their extreme ideological exclusiveness and ambition to submit and harness all social and cultural institutions and activities in the service of a “pure” national State, the new rulers imposed from the start an intensive ideological control over the educational system discarding all achievements of the progressive pedagogy of the time and consequently rejecting the principles of the “new school” as well as its didactical applications in the school practice. But, ironically, the final blow which brought a real halt to the rich pre-war development of educational application of dramatic and theatre work in schools came after the war, with the establishment of a politically completely new social structure – a communist State – which not only radically repelled and fought the barbarian nazi-fascism and aggressive exclusiveness of the Croatian war State but also rejected and depreciated all political, ideological and social orientations, practices and ideas of the “old society” of the pre-war period. In the new State, governed by a communist party imbued with the one-mindedness of an opposite ideological label and indubitably convinced that they are building a completely “new society”, the prolific development of the modern Croatian drama and theatre pedagogy, together with its philosophical and ideological background, has been put to its end and its outcomes pushed into oblivion. In the period to come, i.e. in the second half of the 20th century, although the theatre work with children and young people has been carried on in the schools and institutions like youth theatres, the models and concepts of educational drama/theatre work as a complex, multilayered and specific field had to be gradually re-invented and developed almost from the start and with no reference whatever to the experiences and results of the previous periods.

The research into Croatian cultural and pedagogic past revealed a rich historical development of ideas and practices of drama/theatre work with educational intentions which evolved together and inseparably from the growth of modern Croatian civic society in the 19th and 20th centuries. The findings are convincing enough, I believe, to persuade us that there are obviously more and different historical developments of drama and/or theatre education which deserve to be rediscovered and evaluated. Knowing these other histories, the ideas and traditions that shaped them, recognizing the goals and paradigms they used, understanding the meanings and challenges they passed through will help us better understand the contemporary state of our profession and field of work, its common traits and its differences, its highlights and peaks, as well as its problems and controversies, and give us opportunity to think over and hopefully understand the challenges of today and maybe get a hint of how to face them and respond to them in the future.


[1] Krušić, Vladimir (2012). Paradigm of modern Croatian drama pedagogy -Development of drama-pedagogical ideas in Croatia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Doctoral thesis. Zagreb. University of Zagreb.

[2] The impact of this influence has been convincingly confirmed by the international conference held in 2005 in Lingen, Germany, dedicated to the history of drama/theatre pedagogy in Germany and entitled “Generations in Dialogue (Archaeology of Theatre Pedagogy)”. The organizers invited the participants to create a dialogue between the new generation of drama/theatre pedagogues with the “fathers and mothers founders“ who started their work in theatre pedagogy inspired, as they confirmed, by the British experiences at the end of the sixties and in the beginning of seventies.

The second example of this “anglocentric” image of the history of drama education is quite recent: in her editorial introduction to the collection of 57 articles by authors from all over the world entitled “Key Concepts in Theatre/Drama Education“, published in 2011, Shifra Schonmann, a prominent Israeli drama pedagogue, reproduces the same historic scheme: “At the beginning of the twentieth century, ‘as if’ games were seen as a playful way for developing creative resources of the child; the practices of those engaged in drama education was defined by the work of Cook, and later, by Ward, Slade and Way, during the middle of the 1920s to the 1960s, through ‘Creative Dramatics’. Over time, a large group of individuals, mainly teachers, inspired by drama and theatre, identified with the educational movement of ‘learning by doing’ and the ‘activity method’ and their professional identity matched their ideological stance.” (Schonmann, 2011; p. 8)

[3] In German pedagogic and cultural tradition, compared to some other cultural and linguistic contexts, there is no difference in terminology between drama and theatre pedagogy. For all activities in the field there exists a common term – Theaterpädagogik. We meet similar linguistic problems in Italian as well as in French, where only recently the term pédagogie dramatique enters the ground mainly occupied by the composite expressions like théâtreéducation or arts de la scène-éducation.

[4] The actual theories of the modern drama/theatre education do not sufficiently differentiate between, on one side, education as an organized form of transmitting the inherited knowledge and experience of some society to its, mainly younger, members and successors (schooling system as well as other kinds of in/formal education) and, on the other side, education as a “consciousness raising” and/or transformative activity aiming either at strengthening the social identity and cohesion or at changing opinions, habits, beliefs and in consequence behaviours and practices of the people (not necessarily younger) in order to improve their living and social conditions and relationships. Therefore I called the paradigmatic models operating in this latter area ideological, without assigning to this notion politically neither positive nor negative meaning. In many cases, especially in the history of ideas, of education and pedagogy as well as in the history of culture(s) and arts, it is/was difficult or even impossible to make delimitation between these two aspects of education, but I consider it useful and necessary in exploring the complex and multilayered social and cultural configurations which constitute our modern societies in which the educational (schooling) systems became specific and mostly self-operating structures.

[5] Published in English at the official Schiller Institute website www.schillerinstitute.org .

[6] Zagreb at the time of the Croatian national revival, according to the census of 1837, officially counted 15.155 inhabitants.

[7] Ivan Filipović (1814-1886), teacher, pedagogue, writer, translator and cultural activist, today esteemed as the maker of the modern Croatian educational system.

[8] Known also as the First Yugoslavia.

[9] Strongly inspired by John Ruskin’s teachings and theories on the arts and their role in life and society.


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Talkin’ ‘bout My Generation – Archäologie der Theater pädagogik II. Konferenzband (2007). Berlin-Milow-Strasburg. Schibri-Verlag.

Truhelka, Antun (1866). Igrokazi za mladež. Zagreb. Nakladom Lav. Hartmana.

Biography of Vlado Krušić