Theater in the Classroom

One addition to my classroom teaching repertoire are my professional training and experience in the performing arts. I believe that theater can be an effective pedagogical tool in the classroom. I treat my language classroom as a dynamic stage of life, in which concepts come alive through simulated real-world scenarios. For example, my beginning students of Russian put on a live, student-hosted Tok Sho. They write and perform skits. They turn the classroom into a metro station, into a park, a zoo, a spaceship.

My advanced language students at the University of Virginia performed scenes in the original from Gogol’s “The Inspector General” and Chekhov’s “The Wedding” during an end-of-semester party at the Russian House. The whole Slavic department community came together and enjoyed the fruits of student learning, and the students had the pleasure of using their Russian in a fun, creative, real-world context.

As part of my course, “An Extraordinary Ordinariness: Anton Chekhov and the Creation of Modern Realist Theater,” I invited drama students to do live performances of scenes from the plays. After these performances students from both departments discussed Chekhov from the point of view of their different disciplines. Together they discovered how text, subtext, imagery, actors and physical environment contribute to the overall theatrical experience in Chekhov’s plays.