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In the Spotlight: Janea Dahl of Drama Notebook

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In September 2013, I wrote a post about the fantastic drama resource, Drama Notebook. As I said in my post then, “Drama Notebook is a fabulous resource for drama teachers on the internet, and a fantastic source of daily drama exercises for teachers and students on Facebook.”

I’m delighted to have the founder of Drama Notebook, Janea Dahl, as my guest in the spotlight today on The Starborn Revue.


Elizabeth Starborn: Thanks for joining us today, Janea. Would you start off by giving my readers an overview of The Drama Notebook? Who is it geared towards?

Janea Dahl: Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! Drama Notebook is a website that contains the world’s largest collection of drama lesson plans, games, tutorial videos, scripts and more. It’s an excellent resource for those who teach drama to kids. It’s particularly helpful for those who are new to teaching drama or for those who have been teaching for years and need new inspiration!


Elizabeth Starborn: What prompted you to develop this marvelous resource?

Janea Dahl: Drama Notebook began as a labor of love. I was the founder of the largest drama outreach program in my state and I began developing the materials to inspire and support my own staff of thirty teaching artists. I would give each new teacher a well-organized notebook full of material; they were always so grateful, and often remarked that no one had ever given them that kind of support.

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When the collection grew too large to print out, I put the lessons in an online password protected folder system for them. (An early version of the ‘cloud.’) One day, it dawned on me that if my own teachers were thankful to have access to that amount of material, that teachers around the world may appreciate it as well. It took a year and a half to format everything and publish the site on the web, but it was well worth it. Now, nearly 4,000 teachers in 28 countries have belonged to Drama Notebook.

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Elizabeth Starborn: Could you say a few words about the adjunct material available through your Facebook page?

Janea Dahl: I like to give away free games and share interesting articles with my followers on Facebook. Lately I have been posting a link to an amazing free resource that I created, “40 Classic Drama Games Every Drama Teacher Should Know.” If readers cannot find it on the Facebook page, they can go to my website and click on ‘Free Games.’ They can read it online or request a PDF to download to their computer.

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Elizabeth Starborn: How does the paid subscription resource differ from what is available on the website and on the Facebook page?

Janea Dahl: I have a lot of free content that teachers enjoy on Facebook and Pinterest. But it is a tiny fraction of what is inside of Drama Notebook. For instance, I have a free tutorial “How to Teach Your First Drama Class” that is available on my website under “Free Stuff.” It’s twelve pages long and packed with useful information.

But inside of Drama Notebook, members have access to a 65 page “Beginning Acting” lesson plan that virtually eliminates planning time for an entire semester. There is one version for older students and one version for younger students. This is just one example. There are over 2,500 pages of well-organized lessons inside of Drama Notebook; the vast majority of which, you will not find anywhere else!

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Elizabeth Starborn: What benefits are there for kids, teachers, parents in involvement in drama?

Janea Dahl: Well, first, I would have to mention that I take a specific approach with drama. Rather than having students learn by rote–memorizing lines, songs and dance steps, the majority of my content is geared toward engaging students in the entire creative process. I don’t believe that kids should be made ‘stars,’ I believe that each student is creatively gifted in some way. The method of teaching drama that I encourage teachers to use allows students to feel confident about sharing their creative gifts with others. It is ‘process’ focused.

Benefits to students include: stronger collaborative skills; increased creativity; more solid presentation and communication skills; a sense of appreciation of others; and a real sense of accomplishment when they’ve created something for others to enjoy. For teachers, I would say that they experience a profound sense of meaning in their work—which says a lot.

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Elizabeth Starborn: The theme on my blog this year is “Empowerment Through the Arts and Through Words.” Do you see drama as empowering? In what ways? How does The Drama Notebook aid in empowering others?

Janea Dahl: As I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, the materials in Drama Notebook focus on a particular teaching style—that empowers students to engage with each other to create their own pieces. Many times, students create work that reflects events or circumstances in their own lives. Witnessing this kind of work can have a transformational effect on both artist and viewer. In addition to that, there are many, many games and activities inside of Drama Notebook designed to help students truly support one another and one another’s work. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?


Elizabeth Starborn: How may people get involved with The Drama Notebook?

Janea Dahl: Anyone can follow Drama Notebook on Facebook and Pinterest and receive free games and updates. Teachers who want more can register to be a member of the site for $9.95 a month or $89.95 a year. They gain immediate access to the entire collection and video library, and I add lots of new stuff every month.

Teachers who wish to contribute scripts, lessons, projects or activities may write to me directly. I can ‘gift’ memberships or issue a stipend in return.


Elizabeth Starborn: Where can we find you online?

Janea Dahl: www.dramanotebook.com

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Elizabeth Starborn: Is there anything you would like to add?

Janea Dahl: As I said before, Drama Notebook began as a labor of love, and although I now make a living from the site, I still view it as such. I hear from teachers all of the time, whose lives were changed by the material, and I am honored to be able to do that.

I believe that one very powerful way to heal our world is to inspire the younger generation to imagine and create a different future—a future where each person is safe, loved, seen and nourished. I know that sounds idealistic. But every day, I work to make my contribution to that vision. I send out my creativity and love to young people through their amazing teachers who are doing what I believe to be one of the most important jobs in the world.

Thank you for letting me share with you and your readers, and thank you for all you do.


Elizabeth Starborn: What a fantastic approach to drama, and to empowering kids — and teachers — through drama! Thanks again, Janea!


Janea Dahl Bio

Janea is the author of Drama Notebook-the world’s largest collection of drama games and activities for kids and teens. She was the founder of the largest drama outreach organization in her state, and was the lead drama trainer for Portland Public Schools before creating the site. She is also the drama curriculum developer and trainer for Kaplan Early Learning. Janea is dedicated to uplifting the younger generation through imaginative play and performance. You may visit her website at www.dramanotebook.com .

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  1. What a wonderful resource, Janea! I teach an adult improvisation/acting class here in Italy, but they are all beginners, so I use the same games and techniques I used with my high school students back in the day. We’re now working on pantomime and quality of movement. I will definitely be checking out The Drama Notebook for ideas!

    Beth, thanks for introducing us to the movers and shakers in the creative world! 🙂

    1. This is fantastic, Renee! I’m glad you’ve discovered something helpful in The Drama Notebook!

    2. Hi Renee! Be sure to sign-up for the free ’40 Classic Drama Games’ e-book when you look at Drama Notebook. When you do that, I send you two more free activities that I think you will love! One thing that I have on Drama Notebook is a whole section of ‘Print and Play’ games.

      To give you an example, I have an activity called ‘Lines in a Pocket.’ You may know this improvisation game. Actors start an improvised scene and at a given signal, they must pull a random line out of their pocket, say it, and work it into the scene. To make this game easier on teachers/directors, I have created a printout of random/hilarious lines to print and cut apart and have the actors put in their pocket (or scatter on the floor).

      I have over 75 activities like that on Drama Notebook!

      Keep up the good work.


  2. Such a fascinating interview with Janea. I remember reading your review last year about the Drama Notebook and shared it with friends I knew would have an interest. But, now I really see what Janea has accomplished. Such a positive way to draw kids into theater and find each of their unique gifts. I love your process!

    I agree with Renee, Janea is one of the movers and shakers in the creative world. Oh, to be a child again. Maybe I wouldn’t have experienced so much stage fright. Fabulous interview, Beth!

    1. Thanks, Pat. I am so impressed with Janea’s work and with her way of involving kids in drama — and the fabulous resources she provides. So impressed.

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