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

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Drama - Edition 9 - 2022

Term 2 has been challenging and commensurately rewarding for Westminster School Drama students. With the continuing presence of COVID-19, students across year levels have met the challenges with a commendable ability to adapt to change. Notably, students have suddenly found themselves without a peer or peers they were working with on a practical performance task, and had to work with others. Perhaps not surprisingly, this has fostered an attitude of flexibility and willingness to “make things happen” among Drama students.

An outstanding example of this was the recent SACE Stage 2 Assessment Task, the production, Waiting, a text exploring perhaps the greatest theme, “How do we value, and what do we place value on in Life?” This production also included the SACE Stage 1 students as their first semester practical and production team Assessment Task. The theme and structure of this two-hour and fifteen-minute continuous play is challenging on its own, but when, two days prior to the scheduled rehearsal Retreat, five of the cast returned positive COVID tests, the level of challenge intensified. The Retreat was rescheduled, the rehearsal schedule reworked and the cast got down to the task of creating an ensemble performance nothing short of outstanding. As is the Westminster way of rehearsing, this remarkable undertaking came together in five weeks.

The Stage 2 cohort, already a very cohesive, experienced ensemble, quickly embraced their Year 11 peers and the group worked with great focus and, it has to be said, a lot of fun, toward creating a performance that was moving, thought-provoking and entertaining.

Audiences entered the theatre to find a repetitive movement and dialogue pattern signifying the characters are trapped in a purgatorial place. This intriguing opening was given great ambient effect by a musical and vocal soundscape entitled You Were Always Here, a remarkable ambient pop track by artist, False Dawn, otherwise known as Felicia Tassone. Felicia’s track was the first external influence the Year 12s worked with during the rehearsal process. This high standard of influence was revisited many times during our rehearsal period.

Retired NIDA Head of Acting, Tony Knight worked intensively on monologues with cast members on two occasions. At NIDA, Tony taught internationally recognized actors Cate Blanchett, Essie Davis, Sam Worthington, Alex O’Loughlin and Miranda Otto, and our students were lucky to receive a standard of direction commensurate with such high standards. Similarly, Craig McArdle, a well-known physical theatre practitioner, worked intensively with the cast during the postponed Rehearsal Retreat to great effect. The scenes involving the entire cast were devastatingly effective. Experienced actor, martial arts stunt coordinator, and accredited stage intimacy consultant, Ruth Fallon, contributed to both Stage Combat and “intimacy” elements of the production, resulting in an extraordinarily high standard of performance in these areas. We were also lucky to benefit from the expertise of Old Scholar Dana Cropley (‘14), a proficient actor and director in her own right, and former Westminster staff member, Marcella O’Hare, during the Retreat. Amy Bower (’14), whose increasingly successful career as a fashion designer limits her time to work with us, assisted in both wardrobe and acting.

These experiences continue our ongoing commitment to providing opportunities to students and audiences alike to experience Drama of the highest standard.

Waiting was a memorable production, one, I am sure, that will be remembered by all who participated and attended for years to come.

The Year 11/12 Production was not the only performance work happening in Drama. Ms Cowan's Year 10 class gave a wonderful performance to Reception and Year 1 students in our beautiful new Drama Studio. The class had been working on Children’s Theatre during the term and created brief plays with a message from fairy tales, fables and stories. Not to be outdone, the Year 9s have been working on a script series usually reserved for Year 10s. The so-called Bali Series is well-known among current and former Westminster Drama students as a powerful introduction to applying the Stanislavski System to a script with clear, strong character arcs. Year 8s have been applying their fast-developing knowledge of the same to a text written in modern language after the style of Shakespeare. Westminster Drama continues to thrive after its move into the new Forder Centre and we all look forward to continuing a long tradition of developing students to meet their maximum potential.

John Doherty
Head of Drama