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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Youth Social Awareness: Why Live Theatre Still Works

by Barry Koen-Butt, Director of Awareness Programs and Communications | Jun 08, 2012 11:46 AM

Newscan (Vol. 14, Issue 22)

For over a decade, RGC has created and presented youth awareness dramas that have reached over 230,000 secondary school students throughout Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. From the beginning, prevalence studies showed us that there was a compelling need for awareness of the risks of gambling in adolescents. In one 2009 study, 43% of Ontario high school students reported gambling at least once in the previous 12 months.

Why use live drama to deliver awareness messages to students?

Theatre and drama have been a form of expression since the beginning of civilization, And, they have been used as instructional techniques in Canadian schools to varying degrees for many years. The suitability of drama as a teaching tool comes from its ability to be adaptable—flexible in content, style and delivery. "Drama and other types of performances can be a great communications vehicle for social issues," says Jon Kelly, CEO of RGC. "Performance can convey emotion and leave an impression that endures. Live performance is an essential part of any communication strategy for young people." 

In addition, the use of theatre opens the lines of communication on difficult social issues in a non-threatening way. More generally, active learning approaches (e.g., quizzes, games, dramas) are widely considered to be the most effective way for young people to learn health-related and social skills.

As shown by our annual program evaluations, RGC’s youth dramas have proven to be a successful tool in reaching out to young students with safety messages that highlight

  • the risks associated with gambling
  • ways to avoid these risks
  • where to get help locally

In addition, post-performance feedback tells us that not only do students find them entertaining, engaging and believable, educators who see the dramas (and the interactive session that follows) also believe they are an entertaining and effective way for students to learn and retain information about the risks of problem gambling. As one student put it, “I think a play is a good way [to communicate] because when the students watch it, they can connect with it and actually see what goes on… instead of someone just walking around talking about it. You actually see how [gambling] affects their life, and what they turn into.”

Today’s learning environment, like everything else, is being altered by technology—smart phones, tablets, and more. As these tools become more and more widely used to deliver commercial advertising and social messages to youth, RGC believes the dramas will become an even more important tool to raise problem gambling awareness by cutting through all the information “clutter” with their unique (i.e., live and interactive) nature.

Editor's Update

Starting in 2015, RGC launched an updated performance feature a game-show style with Game Brain