Dara – Delivering a Diverse Drama Curriculum

By The Arty Teacher - April 3, 2023

How diverse is the curriculum you are currently delivering? Does it reflect the faces that stare back at you in your classroom or the issues of equity and diversity that are so often in the news?

Dara is a historical play written by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem, adapted by Tanya Ronda and Directed by Nadia Fall for the National Theatre. I wanted to bring it to your attention as it could be a small part of a larger jigsaw that allows you to deliver a diverse and relevant curriculum.

The play is based on the true story of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century, focusing on the conflict between two brothers, Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb, over the throne of the empire after their father’s death.

Dara, the eldest son and heir to the throne, is known for his liberal and tolerant views, while Aurangzeb is more conservative and orthodox. As the two brothers vie for power, tensions rise and the empire is plunged into a brutal civil war.

Throughout the play, we see the struggle between these two ideologies and the devastating impact it has on the people of the empire. The story also highlights the role of religion in the conflict, with Dara’s Sufi beliefs pitted against Aurangzeb’s more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

Ultimately, the play serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of extremism and the importance of tolerance and understanding in a diverse society.

Think of the excellent conversations and discussions you could be having with your students if you studied this play in school.

Good News – Watch it for Free

Schools can get free membership to the National Theatre Collection online and stream Dara directly into your classroom. Find out more here.

Photo by Ellie Kurtz

Why Dara Still Speaks to Us Today

Dara still resonates with audiences today because it explores themes that are still relevant in contemporary society. The play tackles the issues of religious intolerance, extremism, and the abuse of power, which are unfortunately still prevalent in many parts of the world.

The play also raises questions about the role of religion in politics and governance and the potential consequences of using religion as a tool for political gain. This is a theme that is particularly relevant in today’s global political climate, where religion is often used to justify acts of violence and discrimination.

The play highlights the importance of tolerance and understanding in a diverse society. It shows how the lack of acceptance of different beliefs and cultures can lead to conflict and division, and how promoting tolerance and respect can help build a more harmonious society.

If you want to dig deeper into why Dara is relevant today, read the essay by National Theatre Production consultant Anwar Akhtar, on the story behind how the play came to the National here.  

Photo by Ellie Kurtz

Free Learning Pack

You can access the National Theatre Learning Pack for Dara which will support your student’s viewing of the play and provides links to the UK School Curriculum. Its useful plot synopsis with time codes allows you to jump to different sections of the play.

To have diversity in the curriculum, you need diverse teaching materials, stories, media, and literature. The story of Dara, is one significant contribution to help bring diversity into your curriculum.

Learn more about Dara from these reviews:  The Guardian  and  Channel 4 News

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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