By Elisa Williams, Regional Program Manager, The Song Room
Hi drama teachers, I am really excited to share with you a new devised theatre resource I have created to help guide you through the sometimes daunting process of devising an original show with your students. I’m not sure about you, but I love it when I get an insight into how other drama teachers work, I love learning new techniques and processes that I can try out with my students, it keeps my work alive. So I have put together a comprehensive guide of all of the strategies I have developed over the years to use when teaching play making.
It’s been a really fun journey putting this together and it started when I was invited to represent The Song Room to deliver a devised theatre workshop at the Singapore Drama Educators Association Conference in July 2017.
Of course I leapt at this opportunity. As well as my work at the Song Room and lecturing in drama at uni, I am also completing my PhD in drama education and I felt this would give me an opportunity to share some of my devised theatre techniques with an international audience. We decided to film at the conference and to create a devised theatre resource for secondary drama teachers while I was there.
I had the pleasure of working with an amazing bunch of conference delegates, including drama practitioners from Singapore, India, Vietnam and even Brunei. You will see from the videos on the course how creative they were. I took them through the first few steps I take when devising theatre with my students, exploring techniques that I refer to a lot in the resource.
Stories from Home is a devised theatre project. Check it out on ARTS:LIVE here. It is a complete toolkit that will guide you through a whole term of workshops to create an original show with your Year 9 or 10 drama class. It contains five videos, ten lesson plans, assessment tasks, rubrics, teacher notes and handouts. I chose to focus on devised theatre because, not only is it my specialty, but it is essential that students get as much practise as they can in creating original work to prepare them for Year 12 and the original solo performance that is their major assessment point.
The resource is based on the stories of six teenage asylum seekers. Whilst I wrote these stories myself, they are based on very similar stories I have heard over the years as a drama teacher working with new arrival students. The resource shows you how to take a small passage of text and use it as the basis for improvisation; how you can unlock layers of meaning in a text and portray it physically and vocally. The students are asked to reflect on the refugee’s stories, to ask themselves what it would be like to be displaced and in doing this to consider what ‘home’ means to them? Does ‘home’ mean the same for everyone? How can they bring their own memories, their own stories, their own sounds of home into their work and what happens when they contrast these with the stories of their refugee characters?
The lesson plans and videos will take you through all of this in a step by step, scaffolded and sequenced approach – with lots of fun warm ups and reflections thrown in as well.
The resource contains two assessment tasks, a marking rubric and many handouts that will help you to teach your students how to develop a narrative, how to explore tension, as well as very structured ideas for you to use when staging the performance. It is aligned to the Australian Curriculum for Years 9 and 10 and you will see that each lesson heavily features one of the drama elements. This is because I want students to get familiar with using those elements as tools, by focussing on each element they will make their work deeper and richer.
Of course you can take this resource and use it in any way you like, change it up, add your own ideas, bring it to life in any way you choose. I hope that it is a help to you, as drama teachers we rely on each other for inspiration, to remind us of other ways of seeing things. I hope that this brings you new insight, it is an honour for me to share my techniques with you – enjoy the creative process!
Check out Stories from Home on ARTS:LIVE here.
If you haven’t registered for ARTS:LIVE yet, you can do so here.
Elisa Williams is the Regional Program Manager for the Song Room and is also a lecturer in Drama Education at Edith Cowan University Perth. Elisa began her career as a drama practitioner in 1993 when she was one of the pioneers of the Act 3 International Drama Academy in Singapore. Since then she has trained in Acting at the Victorian College of the Arts and worked as an actor and theatre maker in Melbourne, London, Germany and Perth. She is currently completing her PhD in Drama Education at Edith Cowan University.