Austin’s schools won’t resume classes until Thursday, other school districts are bringing students back today and Wednesday.. But, during school vacations, it can be hard to escape “that school and learning thing,” even when going out for a night on the town.
Okay, “edutainment.” A cross between education and entertainment. Kind of sounds like a made-up word, but the concept’s not new.
“You know Cicero for instance said that part of rhetoric was to entertain and enlighten. So that idea is really old,” said Amanda Krauss, a former professor who left academia to become a speaker, writer and web developer.
She has managed to keep one foot in the education world with her involvement in “The Dionysium,” one of many local live shows that combines traditionally more “intellectual” elements, like lectures, speeches, debates, live music, and poetry into an entertaining evening.
Krauss says Austin’s ripe for this kind of scene.
“I do think there is something about Austin where people are. It’s a very educated town. But they just want to have a good time. There’s not–no one sees there being sort of any conflict between those two goals. And I think that’s what I really was drawn to when I came back, and that’s why edutainment does flourish here. It’s not that you just want to go see people throwing pies at each other. But you want something that might stimulate your brain and also make you laugh,” she said.
Krauss is clear on what edutainment is not: It’s not the same thing as sitting down and taking a class or studying. But she says it is a way to shake out some of the cobwebs of the traditional model that some have of learning as a “no-fun” zone.
“If you come to an Encyclopedia show for example, you will learn very quickly that it is a lot of fart jokes,” she said laughing.
Well, certainly nothing says fun like a fart joke.
Michael Graupmann is an assistant arts and entertainment editor at Culture Map. He’s one of the producers of the live variety show, “The Encyclopedia Show.” Graupmann says there’s an active push to eschew the stuffiness that can be associated with intellectualism.
“We definitely do a great balance and our influences come from the Muppet Show and Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” Graupmann said. “It just has an intellectual facade to it that we’re actually straining against. So even though we’re covering that and teaching people in a different way, we value the learning with the laughter.”
Graupmann doesn’t think “edutainment” is a passing phase. He likens its appeal to that of “Saturday Night Live,” which is now in its 37th season.