"Now" Time

Dorothy Heathcote distinguished between “over there” time, and the “now” time of drama. It’s the difference between talking about something as if it is happening “over there” – “they would do this or that” – and talking about it as if it is happening now.

There is a world of difference between someone in a class saying, “Well, they would take all their belongings with them”, and saying, “Let's pack up and leave”. That is the switch I work for, to enable a dramatic exploration of ideas to take place. (1)

The teacher can switch in and out of role – between talking in “now” time and “over there” time. As she explained on one occasion (at a teacher training event):

... you have to pay a great deal of attention, then, to the clarity of the shift. It can be very subtle, but it must be very clear; and it’s to do with the way energy is used. People shouldn't have to spend time thinking, “Is she or isn't she, now [in role]?” They should immediately be galvanised, even though they may not move, or show any different. But mind-wise, they are galvanised into “now” time, and then “over there” time.

The teacher appears to “drift” into “now” time – “I use the word drift because that's how it appears often to the children, the class you’re working with - though there's no drift for you, there's a straight cut into it”. It occurs through “the smallest shift” in tone, “choice of vocabulary, pitch, public or private voice, or, you know, there are all sorts of things”.

The talk out-of-role is now always related to the work you are doing in role.

When you go back to what I'm calling “over there” time … you are actually promising what you'll be doing in role. So you're never in what I'd call the normal, teacher-abstract mode of, “Now it is important to learn about the Great Lakes, because-”. You’re never there, once you’ve ventured into role. You are aware that: “I’ve come out of role now, to do something else that will help when I'm back in role.”

Using role, and moving in and out of role, also changes the teacher-pupil dynamic – and the way the class sees you. 

In talking with the group out of role, you are also negotiating the way the drama will develop. You are earning the right, Dorothy argued, to be seen as “a collaborator in both modes” (in and out of role).

When you first begin working with them, it is as a teacher they view you, because you're operant in the school paradigm. When you slip into role, you break that paradigm usually. (That's if we're in a fairly parlous situation, where children are not used to doing this way of working, where opinion, questioning is valued by you.)

When you therefore venture into it [for the first time], you must get very quickly back into the, “Can you accept me as a collaborator, even though you're still seeing me as a teacher?” …

It's the “teacher” bit that has to be won, in the end, to being that of “collaborator.” ... until eventually, they haven't got this view of you [as “teacher”]. They are looking at you [i.e., you as a person].

[From Video Series D: “Teacher intervention and strategies in the four levels of drama progression.” Dorothy Heathcote Archive, Birmingham City University; except (1) from “Signs (and Portents?)”, SYCPT Journal 9 (April 1982).]  

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