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

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Drama - Edition 4 - 2019

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear about Drama is, “What do the students do?”.

Classical training in acting so, by default, Drama, is based on a number theories and systems of select Theatre practitioners, and includes physical expression, voice, imagination, personalising, improvisation, external stimuli, and script analysis. The broadest explanation is that, from Year 8, students are introduced to the discipline and craft associated with performing. From day one, Drama involves "disciplined play". But what does this mean?

Movement classes provide a good example. We want our students to learn and practice the concepts of spatial relationship, gross and fine body control, choreographic skills and expressive movement. Some readers may have recollection of Movement classes involving pretending to be “trees blowing in the wind”, or "wading through mud".

At Westminster School, the introduction to Movement is a little different. Year 8s are introduced to Basic Stage Combat and extended in Year 9 with Basic Stage Combat with weapons, both introducing vital concepts. A side benefit is the awareness that fictional TV and film violence is choreographed to the finest detail, and is frequently unrealistic in its outcome.

We are extremely fortunate to have Sifu Nino Pilla and Sifu Ruth Fallon, Jeet Kune Do instructors and Stage Combat Specialists, from the Martial Arts Stunt Krew (MASK), instructing our Year 8 and 9 students.

Nino recently returned to Adelaide for a brief time after one of his many times working in LA and Europe, and brings thirty five years of experience in martial arts instruction and twenty years of industry experience in film and TV stunt choreography to our students. Ruth, known to some of our students as the original “Rhapsody” from the hit children’s series “The Fairies”, is also a trained, working actor, and Stage Combat Choreographer. She, too, has just returned from working in Europe. Our Year 8 and 9 students are looking forward to several more sessions with our guest instructors culminating in a practical assessment of brief fight sequences.

Year 10 Drama extends students’ Movement skills and application further through intensive modern Circus Training with the view to them devising and performing a Nouveau Cirque piece to Westminster Preparatory School students in Term 2. Initial Body Control training commences with myself and our Head of History and Geography, Kat Elliot. I have a good deal of experience in physical conditioning through working with MASK and as a Personal Trainer, prior to working at Westminster, while Kat has extensive training in Physical Theatre and Circus, which she gained prior to working at Westminster.

This basic conditioning is then extended by guest instructor Ella Fenwick. Ella toured for five years with Cirque du Soleil as a Principal Aerial Artist, and has, since returning to Adelaide, been extensively involved with devising and performing shows for the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Ella also has a significant role in training the elite athletes of Cirkidz. Ella brings an immense amount of expertise in training young people in the disciplines associated with Physical Theatre and Circus to our Year 10 Drama students.

In the meantime, Year 11 Drama students are engaged with devising theatre works for assessment to reflect their understanding of a range of non-realistic theatre innovators and styles, many drawing on the physical theatre training described above. They, along with the Year 12s, have attended an eclectic range of high quality performances during the Adelaide Festival of Arts, and it’s off shoot, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, including ‘Out of Chaos’, ‘Manus’, ’Eurydice’, ‘Extinguished Things’, and ‘The Tiger Lillies'. This experience has resonated with both Year 11 and 12 Drama students in their analysis of alternatives to the theatrical styles of Naturalism and Realism, and is sure to influence their work in upcoming productions.

John Doherty
Head of Drama