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The Play’s The Thing: Cultivating innovation in the Drama Classroom


In 2017, the Drama Department has reinforced the value of Drama Education in an OC student’s academic life.  Anthony Campbell discusses the benefits of teamwork, the necessity for rich and relevant topics, the power of creativity and the transferable skills available within OC Drama.

As an arts educator, I have often been met with misconceptions about the study of Drama. Contemporary Drama Education should not be regarded as an exclusive cohort of those who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts. Drama challenges students to role-play and learn practically through the senses. Drama is also a subject that supports holistic development. Drama provides real-world learning experiences that strive to prepare students for the twenty first century.

Drama stimulates creative thinking, the power of imagination, problem solving as well as cultural engagement and communication. These skills are key elements in a variety of subject areas and career paths. Hence, the Department tailors the Drama curriculum to the unique OC context of classroom, school and community.

“Enhancing the skills of creativity is the single most transferable tool within the study of Drama”.

Former Artistic Director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Andrew Upton, discussed the value of creative learning embedded within Drama in his keynote speech at the 2015 Drama Australia National Conference. He suggested that creative learning cultivates interest and authenticity in the classroom.

“It is a way to reinvigorate practice and students can honestly say they know what character means, what an improvisation is and that the creation of theatre is a collaborative dialogue that involves texts and visuals and more than anything else, self-confidence”.

An effective Drama education allows students to implement their physical, emotional and intellectual senses in order to engage in authentic and innovative learning experiences. This is best characterised by English poet and playwright Peter Abb’s as overwhelming, engages powerful sensations, brings a heightened sense of significance, cannot be communicated adequately in words and it leaves in one a desire to share it. It is a state of being where a moment of clarity and understanding is experienced by an individual and causes an emotional reaction and a sense of greater purpose in life.

In the Middle School, Year 9 Drama students are able to study Drama as a year-long course of study. This has allowed the Department to expand on the curriculum in order to incorporate aesthetic learning experiences that allow for authentic assessment. For example, Year 9s have engaged in a Performance Poetry and Physical Theatre unit where they have been able to devise their own group performance. Topics included the significance of world peace, the importance of embracing fear, the positive impact of ambition, the negative impact of prejudice and the consequences of bullying. It is unit of study that not only allows students to create, but also for their own voices to be heard.

The core business of Drama Education in the twenty first century is to foster creativity and innovation. As Richard Florida argues in The Rise of the Creative Class, creativity is the driver of a thriving economy. Hence, fostering creative and innovative minds is the single most transferable skill within the study of Drama.

“Creativity is the driver of a thriving economy”. Whilst Senior Drama increases in complexity and challenge, this course of study provides senior students with the opportunity to engage with a range of historical and cultural styles. As innovation relies on problematising what already exists, the students are challenged to examine, through a contemporary lens, the work of Sophocles and Shakespeare. They strive to recontexualise these pieces for a modern audience through the development of meaningful and relevant universal themes. Their production pieces also display cinematic production technologies. Rather than just perform these historical pieces verbatim, the Senior Drama students are challenging the boundaries of traditional theatre through performance innovation. As Matt Adams revealed at the Adelaide Arts Festival:

“This is not to say that traditional theatre is finished. However, in the same way that painting was transformed forever by the arrival of photography, it does have to change. Especially if it seeks to reach a new, younger audience and to have a cultural impact”.

The promotion and provision of opportunities for all students to participate in the Arts is essential. As such, students are challenged to think both collaboratively as part of a production creative team, where they will experience the magic of the stage.

Contemporary Drama Education at the College allows for higher order thinking and reflection. The sustainability of Drama relies on a consistent fostering of aesthetic engagement. It must provide learning experiences that are authentic and innovative. As such, it will lead to OC students becoming more capable people in the twenty first century.

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