Transcript of Bonus episode – Drama

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (18:48)


Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales, their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations people, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Hi and welcome to the creative cast podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts project advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're having a little bonus episode in which we're going to talk to creative arts curriculum officer Ravenna Gregory about one of the fantastic drama resources that we released on our New South Wales Department of Education Creative Arts website earlier this year.

Please welcome Ravenna.
Hi Ravenna, how are you?

Ravenna – I'm well thank you Jackie, thanks giving me this opportunity to unpack the resource a little bit.

Jackie – Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. Last term we released so many resources, fantastic drama resources through our Creative Arts Curriculum web page and there were so many that specifically targeted stage six which were just fantastic. This included some sample scope and sequences, rationale guides and a preliminary learning sequence and unit of work. So today I just really wanted to talk some more about that unit of work, Text and Intention, which includes learning activities, assessment and resource links. Are you able to unpack that a little bit further until it's a little bit more about the unit of work?

Ravenna – Yeah, I think the focus on stage six came from, you know, the realization that year 11 is just such an important year in the drama course and an opportunity to do something different to what they would do in the HSC course. And I think a lot of teachers might approach Year 11 as sort of a carbon copy of what they're going to do in the HSC course. And whilst it's really important certainly to get them used to all those components, I guess this was an attempt to kind of look at some slightly different ways that you can prepare them for the HSC. So specifically, this Text and Intention Unit is about doing sort of things simultaneously. So obviously we're wanting students to be collaborating really effectively by the time they get into year 12 and to be having as many opportunities as possible to do that with different groups in their particular year. And I guess also the development of this resource came from an awareness that there are students who pick up drama in stage six, that they haven't done drama in stage of four and five. And so, having that awareness of practitioner approaches and how a particular approach to staging a script or creating a piece of work, which is intention, you know that idea of a directorial or a creative intention, an artistic intention, has particular conventions and creates a particular experience for an audience and creates particular dramatic meaning. So, getting them to really engage in that. What we've tried to do with this particular resource is to consistently model the task itself throughout the learning. So, the process that we asked students to go through in the final task is actually a reflection of what they're learning experiences throughout the unit of work.

Jackie – That's really cool. I really loved when I was reading this unit of work how there were sort of three elements to every single lesson with the presentation, the workshop and performance. And that really helped to model that for the students which was going to end up being their assessment task.

Ravenna – The final assessment task, Jackie, is that they actually have to do research in groups into a practitioner or a style or an approach to creating theatre or staging text that appeals to them that they are interested in. And they have to then analyse, synthesise, pare back and do a presentation for their peers about what they've learned about the characteristics of that approach. So, what makes it different to another approach, and then they have to choose a game or an activity that would help them to work with actors to achieve the artistic intention of that approach. So there's kind of this idea of the presentation and then the workshop, so the knowledge and understanding and then the application of that knowledge and understanding, and then a further application of that through a performance, using those conventions to create a particular experience for the audience. We chose to use a particular script that has no given circumstances, so there's no indication in the script of where it happens or when scenes happened, scenes can be done in a different order. There's no indication of who the characters are, no blocking. I think that could be very scary for students and acknowledging that, in this resource we give suggestions for acknowledging that and choosing instead that that's a really exciting opportunity to work with text to bring your intention to it. And that could be done with any text, depending on the needs of your community or school community. So, teachers, I would encourage teachers to use something that doesn't have too many specific details that are already dictated by the script itself. But it's it's just a lovely opportunity for students to have a lot of fun with that as well.

The nice thing, I think as well, about that structure of presentation, workshop and then performance is that the teacher models that already with three different practitioner approaches. And in this resource, we've chosen to look at Stanislavski and realism, Artaud and a total theatre or immersive theatre and then Bogart's viewpoints. But once again, there's a flexibility there that a teacher could say, “well, my students already are well aware of Stanislavski from year nine and 10, because I've had this same group come all the way through to year 11, I'm going to choose something else.” But I think they could still follow that same basic premise of the structure that the teacher presents their knowledge and understanding. The teacher runs a workshop in that style. The teacher gets the students to then use the chosen text to do a performance in that style. So, by the time they get through to making their own choices and going away and exploring and generating ideas and doing wide research there, I think they've had really great example scaffold and examples of what the expectation of them is in the final assessment, the summative assessment.

Jackie – I love that. It's really important that we are continually scaffolding for students, so that they understand what they've got to do. And I really, really love that model of presentation, workshop, performance. How does this resource address some of the outcomes and requirements of the New South Wales drama stage six syllabus?

Ravenna – The resource is designed to make sure that teachers are explicitly covering theatrical traditions and performance styles in year 11, but obviously they're engaged in all areas of the Syllabus in the group devising, the improvisation, the acting, the knowledge, and understanding that gaining of all of those practitioners. So, there's a whole lot of stuff going on in that, collaborative skills are happening. And I think hopefully by the time they get through then to year 12 they have those skills of collaboration, they understand actor audience relationship, they understand how to collaborate effectively, they have had some experience of acting, they've had some experience of critically studying and all of those things have happened through this experience. And obviously this is designed to be one term, teachers can choose how they want to use this, but if they were to use it as part of a sort of a suite of resources that we've got on the creative arts curriculum website, students are then doing group devise using research as a stimulus learning sequence and we've got one coming up, Jackie, which has a focus on individual performance and that's about specifically applying the elements of production. But naturally in the choices that they make in this resource and in their final performance, if they choose a particular practitioner who really relies on the elements of production, then they're going to be playing around with that already as well in this unit. And I guess the incorporation of Artaud’s work was a little bit as well, trying to touch on elements of production more explicitly so that there are opportunities in the learning activities for them to play around with light and shadow and sound, and the performance space, and all of those things. How is it related to the syllabus? Well, it's all the way through. It's really embedded, which is the point of the drama syllabus. Certainly, the recommendation is not that these content areas are delivered separately. They're absolutely work, they're interconnected. But specifically, the focus of this one is those theatrical traditions and performance styles.

Jackie – I really like how you talk about the elements and the styles and all of those parts of the syllabus that need to be nicely integrated in a lesson. In this unit of work, the students investigate a range of practitioners. Why do you think it is important for students to be exposed to a range of theatre practitioners as they are in this unit?

Ravenna – I mean, the preliminary course, Jackie, is all about giving students the tools that they need to make choices when they get to your 12 and to make it really informed choices. And I think the more they know about different approaches and ways of creating dramatic meaning, the more prepared they are to make the right choice for themselves when they get to both the individual project choices and to the group devising process. In year 12, I think most drama teachers will have experienced the kind of pattern of year 12 students being really influenced by the topics that they study in the first part. Most people choose to do it as the first part of the HSC course and seeing the influence of, for example, if you were to do approaches to acting and you were studying Jacques Lecoq, that we might see a lot of the influence of that in the group devised works that are created. And so, I think if in year 11 we can give students all those different tools for how to make theatre and how to manipulate an audience and manipulate dramatic meaning. That's halfway there to making them really exciting theatre makers and giving them permission as well to mix and match to create something new. That's when that innovation happens, and when they are able to show control of something is because they really understand it and then they do something new with it. And I think that can really help in the individual project as well to help students to feel safe, to take those creative risks, because they're creating things that are new for them always. And they can only do that if they kind of know what all the possibilities are and then how to play around with them,

Jackie – like filling up their toolkit.

Ravenna – Yeah, yeah, it's exactly that. So, when they reach that point in the group or the individual project where they hit a wall of, “I don't know where to go next with this”, which inevitably happens. It's “well, what about that thing that you tried in year 11 or that we looked at in year 11? Why not try that approach now?” So I think, you know, that's the main reason, I think also in the exploration of the two topics, The Australian and the studies topics in year 12, of course, it helps to have that background.

Jackie – The final question that I have about the unit of work, and you've already touched on it a little bit throughout our discussion but I want to ask it anyway, just to make it really sort of, I guess, explicit, is how do you imagine teachers are going to use this resource? They're going to go to our website and there's so much on the website that they can download. Do you imagine that they'd have to use it in its entirety? Or can they pick and choose? How do you imagine teachers using this?

Ravenna – I think the answer is yes, absolutely, I imagine them using in its entirety and linking it to their learning management systems and having that scaffolding there. But I also imagine them using this as a scaffold for their own programs and replacing all of the content, replacing the practitioners that they choose to experiment with, replacing the assessment task with one of their own, replacing the text obviously. And also, I can imagine that they could pick and choose to use one activity, but not another. And so, it's an incredibly flexible resource, but it also does, I guess a little bit in the same way as the experience for the students, it's creating the scaffolding if they need it. And also allowing for that creative freedom of using what you want, what works for you and what doesn't. And it's also, you know, just in a very concrete way, you can download it.

Jackie – Fantastic, actually, I love that some of this we put on as live content so they are able to access it whichever way they like. So just so teachers are aware, this fantastic resource that we've been talking about today is located on our Creative Arts Curriculum Website, within the New South Wales Department of Education website. And the link to the resource is going to be in our show notes. So, you'll be able to just click on that link in the show notes. And whilst it is on a New South Wales Department of Education website, it is not limited to New South Wales Department of Education teachers. Any teachers are able to access this, from any sector, even any state, even though it is answering the New South Wales syllabus documents, anyone is able to click on that resource and have a look at it and use it as at your will, which is fantastic. Thanks for sharing today, Ravenna and we have a real focus this term on stage six. So, it's really great to be able to talk about some Stage six resources. And I know you have a really exciting podcast coming up next week about supporting students in drama in stage six and the HSC. Are you able just to give us a little bit of a preview about what that podcast next week will be about?

Ravenna – Yeah, Jackie, I'm very excited about it and yet to record it at this stage we're speaking. But I'm speaking with two very experienced drama teachers from opposite ends of the state, about their approaches to the group devising process and sort of how they scaffold, and I guess for their students, how they assess the making, how they manage the formation of groups, and all those things that are super relevant right now to our drama teachers around the state. As we speak, it is week one of term two. And so, the group devising has begun for most people. And so hopefully there will be a little bit of inspiration in there for teachers when it comes out, but also probably a little bit of sharing of the joys and the challenges of the group devised performance.

Jackie – Yes, hopefully an opportunity in there to to hear about how other teachers overcome some of those challenges and maybe relieve some of the headaches that might be starting to form. I remember back when I did drama in stage six, when I was in school, and that was an extremely stressful time. Particularly that group formation element and what our drama teacher had to go through, I really did feel for him at the time. So yeah, I think it would be really great to explore some different strategies with different teachers over that.

Ravenna – I think it's a particularly exciting time for drama teachers this year because we missed the group performance so much last year. It really was noticeable, the impact of losing that beautiful creative collaborative opportunity for our students. And so, whilst yes, it is a challenging time, I think most drama teachers around the state of probably going into thinking “yes, its back.”

Jackie – absolutely. Thanks so much for your time today, Ravenna and sharing some of those fantastic resources. And again, listeners, I hope that we are supporting some ideas for you for supporting your stage six students and please have a look at that link that is going to be in the show notes.

This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our Statewide Staff Room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts curriculum advisor, Cathryn Horvat at creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.

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