Head of Drama

Can theatre influence voters in a federal election? 

Why are Australian theatre companies in 2019 still failing to put female stories on stage?

These are the questions some of our Year 12 students are researching as part of their HSC Drama Individual Projects. A project which requires students to develop a specific hypothesis, carry out research and then analyse their findings. These students have been busy reading journal articles, interviewing artistic directors from a range of theatre companies and surveying audience members. In wrestling with these big questions they are finding themselves in the depths of critical thinking; independently formulating opinions and drawing connections and conclusions from their findings. 

This type of questioning and critical thinking is not limited to our senior students. Every day in the Drama classroom students find themselves exploring and contemplating big questions. Year 8 and 9 students in their study of Clowning and Commedia Dell’Arte have investigated how and why we laugh. Year 10 students have worked in groups to problem solve and make directorial choices that would engage an audience with the contrasts in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Year 11, while studying Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, investigated how theatre reflects the cultural, social and political shifts of our ever changing world. It is in the process of stepping into character, whether it be the clown, the Victorian woman or the the jaded Shakespearean lover, that students spontaneously begin analysing and understanding the perspectives of others. Their ability to approach human situations from a variety of angles sharpens and they gain a greater understanding of their world – past, present and future.

None of this learning happens in isolation in Drama. Students collaborate with their peers while experimenting and taking risks. The Drama classroom is noisy. It is joyful. It is fun. But it is never easy. Students are engaged in ‘hard fun’[1]. It is the type of learning that encourages them to push through frustrations, to improvise and try new strategies to create art.  As Drama teachers we are often surprised and overjoyed by the outcome – performances that are authentic, funny and thought provoking.

These types of performances were evident in the work of the HSC Class of 2018 and we congratulate them on their success. 72% of Drama students received a Band 6 and 28% a Band 5. The Individual Projects of several students were also nominated for OnStage. As a faculty we celebrate these outstanding results, however, marks and grades are never our sole focus. Under the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model, we strive to use Drama as a way to ensure the holistic growth of each student. At the start of 2019 we set goals to ensure this growth. This year our focus has been on equipping students with skills to be more independent, planning changes to our teaching programs to maintain student engagement and finding more opportunities for students to view and participate in theatre performance.

During the upcoming school holidays all members of the Drama Department will undertake a range of professional learning. Mrs. Casey Scoines and myself will travel to New York with 18 Drama students and will work with them as they train at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Mrs Chris Woods will be in Europe participating in workshops with key drama companies, including Frantic Assembly and Shakespeare’s Globe. Mrs Amy Perry, the newest addition to our faculty, will be attending and presenting at the British Shakespeare Association Conference on Shakespeare, Race and Nation in Wales. We look forward to coming together at the start of Term 3 and discussing ways to implement our learning experiences in the classroom.

We hope to see you at the Year 11 Performance Evenings and the Year 12 Drama Showcase in Term 3. Keep an eye on the newsletter for more information.

 

Ms Anna-lea Russo

Head of Drama

 

[1] Papert, S. (1999) “The Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Laboratory.” In Stager, G. An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center. Doctoral dissertation. The University of Melbourne. 2006.