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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Marks on paper : exploring literacy through theatre - impact of performing on literacy and upgrading students Andruske, Cynthia Lee


This work explored the impact that performing in the literacy play "Marks on Paper" had on adult literacy and upgrading students in British Columbia, Canada, from 1989-1992. The findings suggest that through performance learner/actors experienced an increased positive self-image and an increased awareness about illiteracy. Often this translated into a sense of empowerment resulting in transformations in perspectives and actions for the students. The research design was a historical case study of "Marks on Paper." The play experienced three phases in its history: Chinook Touring Theatre, Literacy Players, and their four spin-off productions. Three data sources were used: 1) twenty-two audio-taped, semi-structured, open-ended interviews of the learner/actors; 2) documents collected from the groups included play programs, newspaper clippings, journals, learner event reports, personal scrapbooks, photographs, and props; 3) observations made as a participant-observer from both videotapes and live events. Three major categories emerged from the research. First, in terms of PSYCHO-SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS, performing in the play enhanced the players self-image and created a sense of belonging. SOCIO-POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES were manifested in raised awareness, empowerment, and transformation/action. Finally, the play had a SOCIO-EDUCATIONAL impact in terms of learning and teaching. The findings of this research have implications for self-understanding, understanding others, raising awareness, problem-solving, teaching, and learning. The play provided the learner/actors with the opportunity to explore their performing capabilities, inter-personal skills, and perceptions of illiteracy in the classroom, informal settings, rehearsal, and public performance. This helped increase self-confidence in the learners. The play was used as an instrument for learners to work in groups and to network with peers. Theatre like "Marks on Paper" can provide a voice for students to create dialogue, solve problems, and create awareness about illiteracy. Also, theatre encouraged students to work on their own behalf with professionals and the community to seek solutions for illiteracy.

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