The idea of the PI Project (Pequena Infância/Early Childhood) arose, for the first time, with the Thíasos Cultural Association of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra. It was recovered in 2011, within the context of the activities of the classics’ group of students The Origin of Comedy, being an association that integrates the Portuguese Association of Classical Studies (APEC).
The Project PI annually brings together a team of about four to six volunteer members. It started only with Classical Studies’ students of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, almost all with experience in the theatrical sphere, from staging to representation and academic training, but it also opens up to anyone interested in participating.
The Association’s intention, with the recovery of this project, was to disseminate theatre in the children’s universe – promoting the knowledge of some of its characteristics – and spread classical myths, believing they retain the educational power of the older days, thus ensuring access to the knowledge of a cultural environment that has fascinated humanity for several centuries. Since the 2011 edition, we have maintained the same goals, taking the PI Project to another type of context, private social service associations, afterschools, accommodation centres, among others. We have therefore worked with the Paediatric Hospital of Coimbra and the Acreditar Association, the Casa do Pai – Bissaya Barreto, the Casa de Acolhimento do Loreto and the Lar do Padre Serra, in S. Martinho do Bispo.
The PI Project intends to carry out and make available to all interested a set of activities of classical theatre, with both a pedagogical and formative character. If on one hand it is our intention to explore the physical and psychic potential and sharpen the child’s aesthetic sensitivity through theatre, alluding to topics related to the History of Theatre (e.g., the use of the mask) through drama, on the other, via dramatic demonstration and interim dialogues, we also seek to value the pedagogical dimension of the myth, as it was in the Greek man’s childhood.
As its name implies, it is an activity mainly aimed at early childhood, that is children between 4 and 10 years. However, due to the greater number of young pre-adolescents and adolescents we met in the institutions, we decided to create two different structures in the presentations, considering the age groups. Therefore, we have a structure based in a theatre of dummies/puppets, scripts and exercises directed to the children of the Paediatric Hospital, and another with a more complex script, body, and voice exercises for the other young people. Over two years, it has become practice the final staging of a proposal of a theatrical play based on the episodes studied and dramatized in the sessions.
The workshops of dramatic expression explore, regardless of the age of the participants, themes, and imaginaries of the classical Greek and Roman worlds. The specificity of this project lies precisely at this point – the classical world theme – which is why Greek and Latin myths have been presented and explored, such as the journey and adventures of Ulysses, the horse of Troy, Penelope’s eternal web, the Minos’ myths, Narcissus and Pandora, the Twelve Works of Heracles, Theseus’s Descent into Hell, the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, the Myth of Atalanta.
Each workshop lasts no more than an hour and a half. The formative potential of dramatic expression, which is one of the components of aesthetic education, are already recognized by all educational agents, as they encourage artistic creativity, self-knowledge of physical, expressive, and creative abilities, aesthetic, and ethical literacy. And, as a consequence of becoming self-aware, the child/young person also acquires a fundamental value for citizenship: respect for the limits of the other.