Applying Developmental Epistemic Cognition to Theatre for Young Audiences

Authored by: Jeanne Klein

The Routledge Companion to Theatre, Performance, and Cognitive Science

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138048898
eBook ISBN: 9781315169927
Adobe ISBN:


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Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) provides artistic productions for young people, ranging in age anywhere from one through 18 years, with works involving one or more young protagonists that serve as metonymic representations of respective age groups. However, when staging works for elementary students, too many TYA companies operate from misguided assumptions and implicitly childist beliefs (Young-Bruehl 2012) about children’s ‘short or weak’ attention spans and ‘limited’ comprehension abilities that disrespect and denigrate their actual cognitive competencies (Goldberg 2006, 184–89). Companies also cling to romanticised beliefs that children have vast imaginations through which they ‘suspend their disbelief’ and ‘identify’ with child characters, often performed by adult actors who exaggerate childish behaviours simply to make children laugh (Nolan 2007). Such tacitly derisive caricatures of childhood are especially deleterious because child spectators do not necessarily recognise prejudicial discriminations directed against them, and critics are often led to prejudge such productions for children as ‘inferior’ to theatre for adults.

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