Keep Theatre "In Mind"! Using Drama with Your Students to Connect, to Learn, and to Belong

Workshop Dates and Times

November 8 (5-9 p.m.) and Nov. 9 (10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.), Student Center

Registration Information

Registration capped at 30 participants - first come first serve.

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Workshop Details

How does the brain make meaning? How and why do we learn? Through hands-on activities and application of theatre strategies, you will discover how to integrate into your classroom effective discoveries from social cognitive neuroscience research.

Workshop Outcomes

  • Participants will review how the brain makes-meaning.
  • Participants will recognize the potential benefits of integrating social cognitive neuroscience findings and theatre strategies into the content in their courses and curriculum.
  • Participants will learn strategies to engage students in acting activities or in-role drama processes designed to align with current brain research on empathy.
  • Participants will create, explore and discuss hands-on ways to infuse workshop content into their own discipline and teaching pedagogy.

In this workshop, we will review how the brain makes meaning and explore how our teaching pedagogues and our art-making processes can benefit from knowing a bit more about current research insights in social cognitive neuroscience and in theatre education. 

  • What is social cognitive neuroscience suggesting should be the purpose of education today? 
  • If good ACTORS mirror how “mind stages” in the brain operate, moving rapidly back and forth between non-conscious externally-based reactions (embodied emotions) to conscious internally-based narrative building (reflective cognition), Can we apply socially engaged drama as an effective intervention strategy in addressing depression, isolation, along with interpersonal and cultural disconnect?
  • Is “chemistry” between actors pretending to be characters in a place with a problem to solve be the missing active ingredient in childhood?  Can theatre-making help heal the cracks in humanity by constructing new memes for sophisticating play and social learning in childhood and beyond?

If any of these provocative questions pique your interest, please come join us and add to the discussion—and the playing—as we activate our embodied brains and social minds. 

This presentation is designed to engage any and all curious minds; it will also be of special interest to instructors in arts and education disciplines who are interested in expanding their current thinking and practice in these areas.

Presenter Information

White male with nice big smile, wearing a blue shirt
 Dr. Xan Johnson
White male with nice big smile, wearing a blue shirt

 Dr. Xan Johnson

Dr. Johnson, an exceptional scholar and artist In the field of theatre education, has been an international keynote speaker on the intersections between Theatre and Social Cognitive Neuroscience.  He founded the internationally recognized Theatre School for Youth at the University of Utah, with invitations to represent the USA in France, London, and Russia (IATA USA). His current ongoing empirical research focuses on an Interdisciplinary Drama & Autism Intervention Study (involving Theatre, OT, Speech Disorder, Psychiatry).  Director of 200 theatre for young audiences (TYA) productions, his current creative research in progress entails the development of a new musical, Fly More Than You Fall, by Zegree & Holmes.  (Here’s a taste of the music.)

Dr. Xan Johnson of the University of Utah will be here for a special workshop on how his work as a drama educator is shaped by an understanding of recent discoveries in Social Cognitive Neuroscience. 


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