Legen som Ledetråd - Leg og læring i børneteatret - Teori og praksis

Maria Bak-Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis takes its starting point in a discussion on Danish children’s theater. In the spring of 2015 a number of critics, academics and artists within the field made a big cry out of concern for the national children’s scene. The concern was an idea of an overwhelming tendency of plays designed for learning; for the children to learn school matters and attain concrete skills from attending a children’s play. Quite a ‘drama’ it was and it reached even the national newspaper ‘Politiken’. I was very much on the same side as the roar against the ‘learning plays’. Everybody was, actually. Which in itself was interesting. No voice saying: ‘I think ‘learning plays’ are a good thing’. Another thing that seemed odd was the lack of specific examples of ‘learning theater’. It was just titles and mostly only the statement that they were around, and lots of them, and then the horrifying descriptions of them: Plays that were without soul and only made to meet the demand of the system to produce citizens in the shape that society needed them for profit. I was intrigued. How come there is an invasion of ’learning theater’, but nobody defending them, when they are attacked? If learning is in opposition to theater, why is it so? Is it so? What is the root of theater? The root of theater is play, I felt. The Danish word for play - ‘leg’ is not as open a term as the English ‘play’. Play in Danish refers to what children do when they play ‘make-believe’. I am in this thesis pointing out in which ways the Danish term ‘leg’ is at the root of succesful theater. Richard Schechner’s ‘restored behavior’ the basic element of all performance is identical with Huizingas ‘leg’ (play) and my four informants - all practicians within the field of children’s theater - all agree that ‘leg’ is at the root of their work. From there I go on into showing how ‘leg’ and learning relate to each other. It turns out that the two are not in conflict. Rather they are more or less interdependent. In this investigation I stumble upon two opposing terms that are much more descriptive of the critics’ idea of the ‘learning theater’: ‘Forestilling’ and ‘fremstilling’. These two are again very hard to translate, but the first meaning at the same time: the performance of a theater play, imagination, putting forth, and the latter: demonstration. These two it turns out are the relevant oppositions to be aware of and the demonstration is the ‘bad guy’. This is what the criticism fears the ‘learning theater’ to be. Based on my research I offer an alternative definition of ‘learning theater’: Plays that depart from or touches upon a specific field of knowledge on the premises of art. And the final conclusion of this thesis is: To let the play(ing mode) be the guidewire.

EducationsPerformance-design, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date9 Feb 2016
SupervisorsJens Friis Jensen & Tomas Ellegaard


  • Childrens' theater
  • Learning
  • Play