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Alternative politics of learning: The legacy of TIE in Australia


Hunter, MA, Alternative politics of learning: The legacy of TIE in Australia, Learning through Theatre: The changing face of theatre education, Routledge, A Jackson and C Vine (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 171-190. ISBN 978-0-415-53070-5 (2013) [Research Book Chapter]

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Mention the term TIE in Australia these days and you are likely to face bemusement. Once the vanguard of socially critical teacher-actor praxis seeking to emancipate young people's learning, TIE has for some time been co-opted by small and highly successful operators in Australia delivering pre-packaged plays to school audiences. The drive to empower young people with new knowledge may remain, but mostly the trend has solidified in our cultural imaginary: precisely clocked shows with minimum set-up and pack-up; perky adults playing children characters; and relevant didacticism based on bullying, Australian history or adaptations of short-listed Children's Book Council award texts. In recent years, the occasional Science Spectacular has lent some extra pizzazz to this caravan kind of TIE.

In an environment of Web 2.0-inspired creativity and multi-modal literacy, it is easy to be cynical about TIE as something of an educational theatre cliche. Indeed, discourse on TIE in the latter half of its forty-year history in Australia is replete with metaphors of decline, disappearance and even death (Milne 1998; O'Toole and Bundy 1993; Ryan 1990). But the legacy of what was once, all too briefly, a progressivist partnership between the institutions of theatre and education is far more wide-reaching. For in Australia, it is not the original form of Coventry-style TIE that has survived, but its intent. And this intent - which has as much to do with politics and agency as it does with aesthetics and curriculum - survives in arts education initiatives and partnerships that are unlike those of our caravanning players working under the name of TIE today.

In an essay of this length, it would be foolhardy to attempt a comprehensive overview of what has been a 'considerably complicated' (O'Toole and Bundy 1993: 136) history of TIE in Australia. This chapter therefore owes considerable scholarly debt to those who have synthesized the field before, particularly John O'Toole and Penny Bundy (1993) and Geoffrey Milne (1998). By expanding on their foundational work and drawing on my own observations in the field, I offer, by any measure, an idiosyncratic account. Having myself worked with the drivers of many educational theatre initiatives since the early 1990s, it is apparent that theatre and education gains in Australia have ra:ely followed distinct nation-wide pathways of consequence or categonzation (that is, until the very recent journey towards a national curriculum). My modest contribution to this timely review, therefore, is not to chronicle a path but to suggest that 'Coventry-style TIE' has had far-reaching impacts over time in Australia, despite its mixed fortunes as a form. TIE provided a focus for early attempts to dissolve school/ community boundaries and its lineage can be seen in stand-out arts and education innovations of today. My understanding - as a former TIE practitioner turned educator, researcher, policymaker, parent - is that the contemporary nexus of theatre and education in Australia is resilient and very much alive because there continue to be artists and educators striving - as their TIE 'teacher-actor' predecessors did - for an alternative politics of learning within the school environment.

Thus, this chapter lends its focus to continuities of intention rather than an investigation of form. I do this by discussing TIE and its legacy with reference to the regulatory practices. and values of the 'institutions' of theatre and education in Australia. How have intersections of theatre and learning related to a wider politics of Australian theatre? What has been the connection to the institution of compulsory education? And where have young people, teachers and the earliest progenitors of arts education in this country been positioned in all that? Following a revision of TIE's early history using this lens, I draw attention to a number of recent key initiatives: some which may echo TIE in practice and others which distinctly and deliberately do not. My aim is to provide snapshots that capture the ways in which Australian theatre practitioners have participated in a refocusing of the capacities of artists in schools while, at the same time, keeping the ideals of early TIE alive.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:theatre-in-education, arts education, drama education,
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Curriculum and pedagogy
Research Field:Creative arts, media and communication curriculum and pedagogy
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:The performing arts
UTAS Author:Hunter, MA (Associate Professor Mary Ann Hunter)
ID Code:87060
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2013-11-06
Last Modified:2017-12-14

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