A great number of stories in the Western "literary" canon were not written to be read at all, but rather to be seen on stage in the purview of the live theatre. But when students experience plays by merely reading a script or viewing a film adaptation in the classroom, many positive qualities of the live theatre are lost, according to a new study out of the University of Arkansas. 

Completed by the school's Department of Education Reform, two groups of students were given different experiences of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Dickens' A Christmas Carol: one group saw the shows live--interpreted by actors, designers, and a director--while the other group of students either read the plays or watched a film version of them.

"What we determined from this research is that seeing live theater produced positive effects that reading a play or watching a movie of the play does not produce," said Jay Greene, professor of education reform. "Plays are meant to be seen performed live. You can't always take your kids to a play but if you can, you should. The story can be conveyed in a movie, but it doesn't engage the viewer in the same way."

Students who saw live theatre better understood the story, could more easily identify characters, understand the significant relationships in the play, and recognize the emotions of the players. The last finding is perhaps most significant because it measures students' ability to empathize.

In his Big Think interview, theatre director and drama coach at The Julliard School, Michael Kahn argues that the genius of Shakespeare is in his ability to explain complicated situations in ways that affect us personally and deeply:

Read more at Science Daily

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