Drama and Theatre Studies at Bootham
Drama is a popular and successful subject at Bootham. The opening of the drama studio in September 2009 marks a new phase in its development as both a curricular subject and as an extra-curricular activity. With two new flexible rehearsal spaces due for completion by September 2014 (one of which will also double as a medium-sized performance venue), a small outdoor amphitheatre plus a performance space in new the art and music building, this is an exciting time to be studying drama and taking part in theatrical performances at the school.
We stage two large-scale productions a year and students are encouraged to get involved either as actors or, backstage, as members of the production team. Occasionally, productions are aimed at particular groups of students: for example, our 2013 production of Charles Way’s Red Red Shoes was aimed primarily at schoolrooms pupils, whereas 4 Storeys (our 2012 collaboration with the film/performance company Imitating the Dog) was aimed at GCSE and A-level Drama and Art students and was a collaboration between the drama and art departments.
Drama & Theatre Studies is not just for those interested in performance and performance technologies, with a focus on people and places it offers a unique opportunity for the study of human interactions and relationships. By developing confident, creative, ingenious and critical minds, drama provides a context where students can learn to make sense of their experiences as spectators, performers, designers and directors.
Drama in the Curriculum
Schoolrooms drama enables students to develop as performers, technicians and spectators. Students are taught to use their bodies and voices with intelligence and creativity, and to see that success depends on their ability to engage an audience; they learn a range of performance skills (including improvisation, physical theatre, mask work, comic and ensemble acting), but they also learn how to be an audience – and are encouraged to develop the intellectual skills necessary for analysing and evaluating their own work and the work of others. As well as developing skills in acting, schoolrooms pupils are introduced to lighting, sound, make-up and costume – and are given opportunities to apply their skills in these areas to performance projects staged throughout the year.
Students are prepared in year one for their formal assessments in year two. Students participate as actors, designers or technicians in a number of performance projects – all of which culminate in a staged performance before a live audience. Students engage with a range of playtexts (by playwrights as diverse as Beckett, Berkoff, Shakespeare, Dario Fo and Miller), approaching them through an equally wide range of sophisticated performance and technical practices. Students are also given the tools for creating their own devised work and are able to develop their technical and design skills by opting to study lighting, sound, make-up, costume and set design – which they can submit for assessment as part of the qualification. Regular theatre trips are organised to productions that students can study, analyse and evaluate in preparation for the written exam.
The GCSE course consists of two sections. Students participate in a number of teacher-assessed performance projects over the course, the marks awarded for two of these are submitted to the exam board and account for 60% of the total marks. A 1-½ hour written exam is taken at the end of the course, where students respond to questions on a piece of practical work they have undertaken during the course and on a live theatre production they have seen and studied – the exam accounts for 40% of the total marks.
A-level Drama & Theatre Studies enables students to develop strong practical performance skills and an equally strong intellectual appreciation of how theatre has developed in relation to its wider cultural, social and historical contexts. The course consists of four assessed units, these are supported by a range of additional research and performance projects designed to widen students’ awareness of the field.
At AS level, students study two contrasting playtexts and explore them from the perspectives of a number of key theatre practitioners (such as Stanislavski, Brecht, Antonin Artaud and Edward Gordon Craig). A number of theatre visits are arranged, enabling students to develop their critical appreciation of live theatre. Working under the direction of their teachers, students apply the knowledge gained in Unit 1 to the performance of a monologue or duologue, and in the production of a play. Students can contribute either as performers or designers.
At A2 level, students work collaboratively in the preparation and production of an original piece of theatre. Students can contribute as performers, designers and/or directors. The course culminates in a 2½ hour written exam requiring students to approach a set play from the perspective of a director and to develop their own ideas for its rehearsal and performance. Students also study and attend a live performance of a play by Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries, in the exam they will compare the performance they have seen to how the play would have been staged and understood in its original contexts.
Outside the Curriculum
Bootham has a long history of successful and innovative productions, students from across the school are encouraged to audition as actors or to join those who contribute as designers or in a technical or support capacity (e.g. front-of-house, stage management, publicity, etc.).
Guidance and coaching is always available for those seeking entrance to drama colleges, university drama departments and organisations such as the National Youth Theatre and the National Youth Music Theatre.
LAMDA classes provide a relaxed and positive atmosphere in which students can develop a wide range of skills. Through improvisation, games, drama exercises and text exploration students are able to develop performance skills directed towards entering the LAMDA graded exams. The preparation towards the exams also provides an opportunity for students to develop other key skills; communication skills (in the broadest terms), self-confidence, imagination and social and group work skills.
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