A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school in Adelaide,
South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Drama - Edition 11 - 2020

COVID-19 has presented many challenges this year. The word "unprecedented", has been used so many times it has almost lost its meaning! Nonetheless, senior Drama students are facing unprecedented challenges. The Year 12 SACE 2 Production, scheduled for Term 2, needed to be postponed which, while affording opportunity to focus on the theoretical component of Drama, meant finding a convenient time to mount this production later in the year.

Hence, the Year 12 SACE Production now incorporates the Year 11 SACE Stage 1 Production and is scheduled to be staged from Wednesday 2 to Friday 4 September.

Titled Four Pay Days…, the play, addressing the theme of homelessness, is a drama punctuated with numerous comedic moments. This work challenges the students to apply a range of techniques from their learning in Stanislavski, Laban, Archetypes and Viewpoint, all systems most of them have worked with from Year 8 onwards.

Year 11 and 12 students attended a Rehearsal Retreat at our favourite venue, Nunyara Conference Centre, from Saturday 25 to Tuesday 28 July.

Where one could be forgiven for thinking various restrictions applied to such a retreat might hamper progress, the opposite proved to be true with a very tightly knit, effective ensemble emerging. This ensemble was further augmented with the addition of very capable Year 10 Drama students in supporting roles.

Old Scholars Lia Devetzidis ('19), Amy Bower ('15) and Dana Cropley ('15), all accomplished performers and former Drama Captains, proved themselves extremely capable in their assistance to the students during the retreat. Their capable direction enabled students to develop the challenging roles they have been cast in. Dana’s presence as a residential assistant was very useful indeed; she and the other Old Scholars formed great working relationships with the current students, continuing a long, treasured tradition.

Four Pay Days… loosely based on a number of “real life” experiences, is a timely production during these ever-shifting times where homelessness is becoming a reality for more people due to COVID-19 related unemployment or underemployment.

Due to social distancing restrictions, bookings must be made via TryBooking. The link through which to purchase tickets will be made available soon.

Meanwhile, Year 10 students have been busy exploring the more advanced, finer points of the Stanislavski System, as well as other means of creating naturalistic, convincing, compelling performances, the foundation of the work in later years which is of a consistently remarkable standard.

Similarly, both Year 8 and 9 students are currently engaged in a four week unit toward acquiring skills in a core skills set in Drama at Westminster School, Stage Combat, the Year 9s in basic weaponry.

These units in Stage Combat are coordinated by Sifu Nino Pilla, an internationally renowned Martial Arts Instructor, Cinema Fight Choreographer and genuinely nice man! With a long-standing working relationship with Guro Dan Inosanto, who trained under the late Sifu Bruce Lee, Sifu Nino’s association with the Drama program is long-standing, and we benefit from his decades of experience. He has worked on movies like the Rob Schneider comedy Big Stan, wherein he trained Rob Schneider and was his stunt double. Most recently, Sifu Nino trained a number of the principal actors in Mortal Kombat.

Unfortunately, as is the case for many, COVID-19 severely curtailed Sifu Nino’s US movie activities and international teaching commitments this year.

I am frequently asked what benefits are derived by young students from Stage Combat. Students gain awareness of and skills in body control, timing, spatial awareness, coordination, listening, fine and gross motor skills, focus and concentration, and adherence to very specific movement patterns, all the while exercising respect for themselves and their classmates. They also learn basic acting skills like the motivation for a character and the concept of acting and reacting in keeping with the characters and situation presented by the scene. And it’s fun, a lot of fun! Close attention is paid to strict safety protocols so that no one is injured. I am also pleased to note that students also gain an understanding that the violence they view in movies is tightly choreographed, executed by highly trained experts, and performed purely for effect; they quickly realize it bears no relationship to real violence which we discourage vigorously.

Term 3 is, as always, very busy. The Drama students and I hope you are able to support our performances this year.

John Doherty
Head of Drama