Being a teenager in the 21st Century is challenging enough, but in an increasingly digital world, where one’s actions, achievements, ideas and opinions are often the subject of public scrutiny on social media, young people who are happy in their own skin are well placed to take the rough with the smooth. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Drama student!
Unlike any area of school life, the moment a student leaves the Maths classroom, Sports field or Science lab and enters the theatre, the stage is already set for scenes of high drama and risk taking, where life experiences outside school really matter, and are poured into every new idea, character and sketch. This creates endless opportunities for trial and error driven by ‘who’ each student is, rather than what could be perceived to be ‘taught’. In this respect, students really do find themselves in the best place; at the very centre of their own learning. It’s the perfect social hangout to explore the truth of who you are and want to be.
During drama lessons, we genuinely feel we are all ‘in this together’, every single one of us, ‘giving it a go’, trying out a different idea, playing it a different way, just for the hell of it; just to see what happens. We don’t have the answers, and the progressive Performing Arts programme doesn’t ask that of its student; happening upon an original idea by chance, rather than following a tried and tested ‘process’ in pursuit of one, is the happy and common byproduct of the drama lesson. It’s a ‘safe’ place to ‘play’, where physical, mental and emotional demands take students to more complex levels of self expression, helping them to refine and accentuate their thinking around the problems and challenges they face there. Some students can only be the very best version of themselves when they give themselves over to a learning environment where anything goes…and in the theatre it certainly does! It can be truly humbling to witness a student emerge out of themselves during a lesson; unlock a hidden talent, find their voice, be brave and even open a window to their soul. A bit dramatic? Absolutely! In the theatre, students embark on the most profound journeys of self-discovery as they explore the deep complexities of the human condition. They also learn that flexibility, resilience and adaptability are essential if they are to change the settings and scenarios around themselves to accommodate new ideas. It is the reason why my students consider any corridor or unclaimed patch of grass to be suitable spaces for collaborative working.
The drama studio is a gloriously free and creative space where the accidental nature of lessons, mimics life outside, and students thrive as a result. The art of clear communication is at the centre of what we do; a skill that our Drama students will continue to use wherever life takes them. Their ability to name their feelings, to make eye contact and to listen and hear, sets them apart from their peers and will continue to do so in their future careers. The drama studio is a learning environment where every student has worth, every idea a possibility and where it is accepted that others’ opinions of us don’t have to become our reality. It’s a special place where you can’t help but develop life skills that will endure. It’s also a nice place to dress up and pretend to be someone else!
Sarah Cakebread is the Director of Performing Arts at Claremont Senior School . Year 9 GCSE uptake for Drama is at an all time high for this academic year with nearly half of all students choosing GCSE Drama as an option
This article also appeared in Sussex Life: A+ Magazine