A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Drama - Edition 8 - 2021

Term 2 has seen extensive learning occurring across the Drama program.

Year 8 students have worked with a particularly challenging script, one written in gibberish, toward consolidating their understanding of the importance of an actor actually understanding what they are saying. This activity places emphasis on Stanislavski’s Given and Previous Circumstances and his key question, “What if…?”. These three technical elements of the Stanislavski System are at the core of working with the imagination and the foundation of practical skills in Drama at Westminster. The Year 9 Drama students worked with a similar script but worked more with Stanislavski’s principles of Intention and Subtext. The ensuing performances for assessment were outstanding and exemplified just how much the students had learned about the application of quite sophisticated techniques.

The Year 10 circus, Timmy’s Adventure, based on themes of acceptance and friendship, was well received by its audience of Year 3 students who enjoyed coming over from the Preparatory School to view the production. The Year 10 students encountered many creative, logistical and technical challenges but finally applied the acrobatics, counter-balance and physical theatre skills they have acquired to produce an engaging performance.

The commencement of Term 2 also saw the commencement of rehearsals for the Year 12 Play which, on this occasion also serves as an assessment task for the Year 11s under the new SACE Drama program.

The Year 11 students are capably supporting the Year 12s who each have significant roles in the play, Miles Away.

"We are all seeking something. It may be near or far; it may be Miles Away."

Commissioned and performed by actress Renee Gentle (’03), Miles Away started life as a challenging solo show; one hour, one actor, sixteen distinct characters, and premiered in 2014 at the Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide Fringe, to some critical acclaim:

“One of the most commendably ambitious works on offer this Fringe Season, this is an emotional journey well worth taking.” - Benjamin Orchard, Stage Whispers, February 2014.

An allegorical tale of one woman’s quest to “find herself,” Miles Away challenges its audience to reflect on their lives, how they are living them, who they choose as friends, and who they are living with. The characters entering and exiting Alex’s world as rapidly as her pedals turn could be sitting next to you. You will find them in suburban living rooms, camping in the scrub, sitting in a cafe, a small-town pub, or on the dance floor in a city nightclub. Miles Away draws on the myriad people of this great land, each with a story, each with something to impart. Some of the characters are entirely likable, others leave us with mixed feelings, while yet others blindside us with their lack of insight, self-awareness or empathy; this is life, after all.

Racist language occurs occasionally during the play to highlight the ignorance of some people in the community, not to condone it in any way.

While its purpose is obviously to entertain, live theatre also promotes social discourse, dialogue and potential social change.

Theatre is a cultural phenomenon that demands that society examines itself in the mirror. As members of society, we are compelled to look at ourselves. Live theatre has been special for a thousand years or more because it brings us together as a community, some on stage, some in the audience, to share stories that compel us to consider things from different points of view.

We don’t necessarily find ourselves agreeing with the points of view conveyed, but that’s the point. Whether Drama or Comedy, good theatre results in conversations afterwards!

Our staging of Miles Away is an assessment piece for both SACE Stage 1 and 2 Drama students. Each Year 11 student has also fulfilled a role on the Production Team, so the process to bring the performance from page to stage has been challenging in many ways.

As anticipated, this class has stepped up to that challenge as a unified, powerful ensemble and, subsequently, has produced a staging of a very difficult play they should be very proud of, indeed.

I look forward to 2022 seeing many opportunities for Drama students to extend their abilities and to showcase these to the broader Westminster Community.

John Doherty
Head of Drama