"This is how it feels": the lived experience of high school musical theater
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In this study, I seek to explore the phenomenological question: What is the lived experience of rehearsing for and performing in a high school musical? Employing a research methodology inspired by Max van Manen, I outline a theoretical framework highlighting the intersection of Martin Heidegger’s phenomenology and Constantin Stanislavski’s acting theory. Because this intersection rests on a mutually compatible view of being-in-the-world as an experience of both temporality and sociality, I also identify two sub-questions: What is the lived experience of time, as set apart, for the high school musical? and What is the lived experience of encountering and being-with others in a high school musical? Further, because high school musical theater is an activity that occurs in schools, which are spaces of learning, a third sub-question becomes: What is the lived experience of learning in a high school musical? I explore this phenomenological question by collecting lived experience descriptions from five high school students participating in a production of South Pacific. Using data gathered from three interviews taken at periodic intervals over the course of the rehearsal and production period, as well as weekly personal journals created by the students, I present a narrative that seeks meaning and understanding through an encounter with the students’ unique experiences. An important rationale for conducting phenomenological research is that encounters with experiences outside our own can foster empathetic reactions and, when undertaken in the context of educational research, this empathy can lead to more thoughtful pedagogy. In discussion of my findings, I propose that a view of the musical theater process that focuses on training students to stage a final production and concentrates primarily on instilling an understanding of performance skills in order to do so may limit opportunities for students to find deeper levels of meaning, and that structuring a rehearsal process that specifically seeks to encourage the discovery of meaning by students could enhance both the journey and the destination of high school musical theater.