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

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Drama - Edition 8 - 2020

The COVID-19 crisis presented, and continues to present, Drama students with a great chance to discover opportunity in diversity.

At the conclusion of Term 1, the broadly held view was that most learning activities would take place online which presented all teachers with an unknown map to negotiate. Fortunately, Westminster School had taken a proactive stance in readying both staff and students for online learning.

From the point of view of Drama, it was a game changer that could have gone either way as Drama, by its very nature, is interactive, collaborative and requires an audience.

The prospect of weeks of theory and individual online performances was completely unappealing. Added to this, Semester 1 Drama programs across Years 8 to 10 are largely based on the discipline and learning arising from Stage Combat and Modern Circus Units, both requiring a lot of physical contact.

The only alternative was online collaboration, something that has been occurring in the real world of Performing Arts, particularly film, television and recording industries, for years. Production companies in Adelaide have become renowned for their work in collaborating with international producers and in Post -Production.

Subsequently, the Year 9s embarked on an online collaboration experiment in producing a Rap with the themes ‘Being Teen in COVID-19’ and ‘March, 2020’.

The work produced was remarkably good with students finding innovative ways to collaborate, edit and present their work, complete with Rapper monikers like Lil Young Shorts.

Lyrics like:

I done bought me a mask, and I got lot of gloves
And I still feel that’s like absolutely nowhere near enough
I ain't shakin' no hands, I do not want a hug
Make sure you wash your hands with some soap, my dear love.

Or

In 2020 there was this thing called Coronavirus
This has now turned into a very big crisis
Staying at home is getting a little boring
At least I don’t have to wake up in morning…

…reflecting the students’ experience of the unfolding situation and their isolation.

This successful online collaborative learning activity led to the plan to have the Year 9s working toward creating an online Radio Drama, and for the Year 10s, an online shadow puppetry show - both uncharted territory for the Drama Department! Meanwhile, Year 11s were to embark on a more advanced Radio Drama project, with the Year 12s, having had their Year 12 Production postponed indefinitely, embarking on a Set and Costume Design project that usually commences in Term 3.

All the Drama students across the year levels approached the new courses necessitated by the pandemic with an attitude of cheerful acceptance and determination to ‘get things done’.

And then things were to change yet again!

The State Government’s recommendation that we return to school in Semester 2 came quite late in the holidays. However, true to the Westminster Drama ethos of ‘the ability to adapt to change’, the Years 8 and 9 Drama students simply adapted to lessons in Stage Combat, with which we could adopt social distancing practices, while the Year 10s simply adapted the collaborative principles from the online Puppetry Unit. They conceived and devised shadow puppetry shows, which small teams presented to small classes of Year 4s in their own classrooms. The Year 10s encountered many challenges that required an effective resolution, not the least of which was the need, discovered at the last minute, to create performance spaces with suitable light in well-lit Year 4 classrooms!

In the meantime, SACE Stage 1 Drama Year 11s embarked on a Film Production project in which each student was required to collaborate on the development of a script from concept to completion, to adopt both production and performance roles and to deliver a completed product on time. This was, due to restrictions on numbers of people in performance venues, in lieu of a Semester 1 Year 11 Production and has proved challenging and rewarding for all concerned.

Year 12s, while working on curriculum material usually presented in Term 3, can look forward with some confidence to performing a production on stage, albeit with a limited live audience or combination of live and live stream audience.

So COVID-19, while presenting numerous challenges across our nation, has prompted a response from Drama students to adapt, practice a resourceful and innovative approach to new learning and, ultimately, to find opportunity in adversity. They should all be commended for this.

At this stage, it is anticipated a combined Years 11/ 12 Production will go ahead in Term 3.

The Years 8 to 10 production, which always provides opportunities for students to be part of a large cast, is scheduled for Term 4. We remain cautiously optimistic that students will be able to enjoy this experience to the fullest extent, but we are, of course, still in the hands of the Health advisors.

I look forward to exploring more innovative and exciting approaches to Drama with the students during the rest of the year.

John Doherty
Head of Drama