Anything is Possible in the Drama Room

There is only one place in the world where you get to see Eeyore, Princess Bubblegum and Donald Trump singing in unison about the misfortune of being trapped in a lift.

The drama classroom.

This is the place where you can implement programs that engage students in the development of vital world-ready skills.

The majority of workplaces in contemporary Australia now require each individual to present, interact and collaborate creatively with management, colleagues, stakeholders, and/or customers. How are we preparing students for these necessities?

In the only place where anything is possible: the drama room. Engagement with the creative arts throughout the primary years is – more often than not – deep and enthusiastic. As students age the details of their social relationships, self-worth and self-confidence become increasingly complicated.

This can create challenges in the drama classroom where performing in front of others can be a new personal test even for the most vibrant of young people who were deeply engaged in the past.

It is hard enough for adults who have the advantage of hindsight and wisdom from a life lived, who still find performing, speaking, or presenting in front of others to be an anxiety-inducing event.

How then do we encourage students to take risks, push beyond their comfort zone and, sometimes, express their deepest fears, hopes and desires for an audience of their peers?

Over the last three years, ELTHAM College has introduced a range of new drama-focussed modules to encourage students to develop the skills necessary to engage meaningfully in their personal, professional and social lives.

After a thorough dramatic education throughout their primary years, ELTHAM College Senior School students can choose from 11 drama modules and electives to further their understanding of the dramatic arts.

Donkeys, Damsels, and Dictators is an example of such a module. It is an introduction to improvisation for beginners.

The program culminates in a team-based improvisation competition where their newly acquired skills are put to the test.

In preparation for this event the students participate in a series of workshops, warm-ups, and class performances.

The golden rules of improvisation are regularly explored, the students are asked to give feedback to one another after each showing, and real-life improvisation situations are included in the mix to make that link to the necessity of these world-ready skills.

The success of this program is exemplified through the large number of students who sign up for the intermediate program the following year and then take it further with an advanced improvisation elective after that.

Best of all the students complete the program with the newfound ability to present characters, relationships, and scenes for a live audience.

A wonderful result for all involved with the honing of skills that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Nicholas Waxman
Coordinator, Creative and Performing Arts

This story originally appeared in the August 2017 edition of Australian Teacher Magazine.