Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Speech and Drama exams

Last Thursday my students took their Speech and Drama exams.  Most of them have been working with me towards a grade for the last year.

We had a real mixture as ever this year.  Some are very keen drama students and others have no interest in drama at school but continue to take their grades with me year after year.  It is wonderful to see this latter group grow in confidence and ability.  

The different scripts we used this year were
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night's dream
Spur of the Moment by Anya Reiss
ALice by Laura Wade
Tartuffe by Moliere
My Very Own Story by Alan Ayckbourn
Rukus in the Garden by David Farr
Two Weeks with the Queen by Mary Morris

One group devised and scripted two pieces of theatre - they had to give the examiner the script and perform it in a polished and confident way

We also had 3 students taking Communication Skills - in these grades they had to persuade the examiner to do something (support a charity, go on a trip etc) They have to listen to an article and summarise it back to the examiner.They also have to do a presentation on something of interest to them.   As they go up the grades they have to present a CV and involves interview techniques.  What an amazing way to develop life skills, and in this time when jobs are not as easy to get - what a fabulous step ahead.

Next year we are going to include some other performance skills - stage fighting and magic are two we have already been asked to work on.

The results this year were: Almost all distinctions or merits, so well done to everyone! 

If you want any more information about any of the above feel free to contact me.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Theatresaurus in the Midlands

Shakespeare?  What is there to like really?  Five years of having his plays rammed down my throat in English lessons certainly didn’t inspire me, listening to teenage girls reading disinterestedly from a book we didn’t really understand, our English teacher clearly frustrated by our distinct lack of interest.

That was almost 30 years ago and I suspect the experience of many school pupils is still very similar as Shakespeare is still studied as part of the English Literature GCSE.   Shakespeare doesn’t really come to life until you see it performed, or even better, you perform it yourself.

Two years ago I was scratching around for activities to fill the long summer holidays.  An old friend, Ros, suggested my then 13 year old daughter join her Theatresaurus drama course during the summer holidays, whilst I took a few days to explore the City of Wells in Somerset where she and her family now live.  The course included a trip to Stratford-on-Avon to see A Comedy Of Errors and every child on the course was taken along, whether they were 6 or 16 years of age.  It was a good production, and as I watched these children drink it in, finally I started to get it.  The words made more sense when they were accompanied by actions, with expression in the voice.

Steph absolutely loved the course and, like the rest of the group, came away with a distinction in the Trinity Guildhall exam.  Ros and her team’s methods of teaching had helped the children not only to maximise their skills, but to bond as a group, work together co-operatively, produce an excellent piece of work and, through this, become friends.  Having enjoyed the course so much, she has been back again and again to learn more about drama.  I doubt she’ll ever tread the boards professionally, but her confidence and understanding have improved tremendously.

Of course, even when you are visiting a friend, it’s a bit of a trek to Somerset for a holiday activity, so the idea of bringing Theatresaurus courses to the East Midlands was eventually born.  I hope that young people in Nottingham and Derby will take the opportunity to learn about Shakespeare in an interactive way that brings the text alive and helps them to understand it so they embrace this significant part of their education when it arrives.

Theatresaurus Shakespeare Summer Workshop
Friesland School Performing Arts Centre
Monday 30 July to Friday 3 August, 9.00am to 2.30pm

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Something to do in the holidays? Part 2

Anthony and George finished their AS exams and were hanging around with very little to do.  They were around when I was teaching (George is my son)and started to express an interest.  Neither of them had done any drama for years and had never done a drama grade.  It started as a bit of a joke but when I gave them the Jerusalem duologue they were caught. It was wonderful to see them learning their lines, spending hours researching the play, reading around it and trying out different ways of portraying their character.

Hamlet was more of a challenge -  Neither of them had spent any time working on verse as an actor.  But I was amazed at how excited and fascinated they became by the exploration process.

We had many many laughs learning about Improvisation - another new experience for them.  Learning about Freeze Frame, Cross Cutting,  and flash backs - all part of the Improvisation process.

The grade 7 exam requires you to learn two contrasting Duologues (Anthony and George did Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (from Ginger's entrance)and Hamlet (Act 1 Sc 2 from Horatio's entrance) By William Shakespeare. 
You are also given an improvisation stimulus 15 minutes before your exam and you have to come up with a performance.  (they were given a taxi receipt) 

I am really delighted that both boys got a distinction!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Something to do in the holidays?

At first it was just a sporadic suggestion between two mates. “Why don’t we do speech and drama? It’ll be a laugh.” However this quickly turned into a reality and within 10 days George Johnson and I sat our grade 7 exam. Personally as an English A level student, I was already familiar with the works of Shakespeare, but only through the analysis of his written work. However speech and drama offered me the opportunity to appreciate his work in performance. This heightened my understanding of the text, as I was taught how to truly capture the emotion he wished to convey through his words.

I believe the learning process augmented our confidence as we had to perform our duologues for an examiner, having had no prior acting experience.. In particular, becoming accustomed to improvisation truly forced us to go out of our own comfort zones.

Finally, although the process demanded much of us, it prevailed to be an exhilarating experience. It permitted us to truly appreciate the requirements of tackling an acting role, something I knew very little about beforehand.

But enough about us…

Rosalind Johnson and Louise Merrifield are fantastic teachers (at least that’s what they told me to include in this). Under their guidance we quickly got to grips with the requirements of our duologues and the essential performing techniques required to really bring the pieces alive.

But if that doesn’t concoct an image enticing enough, or provoke your mouth to drool then read my money-back guarantee below:

If your child happens to be part of the 95% of society whose poor pronunciation has manifested to the point where they forget to pronounce their t’s : then send them here and they will be rescued.

Anthony Fellows