Advanced Level Studies.
I have taught at Advanced Level for the past ten years, starting with A' Level Theatre Studies and then moving on to ULEAB's Drama syllabus which is administered by EDEXCEL. Here for your delectation are both schemes of work and individual lesson ideas which you can print off and use as you wish. There are also details of schemes of work and resources which can be purchased from me using the sales form.
Every time I moved schools, there were certain texts that I considered essential and I often find myself purchasing one copy of a text because there is a chapter in it that is useful , so here's the list, please feel free to E-mail in your own suggestions.
From Page To Performance - Cambridge - 0-521-33735-6
Drama And Theatre Arts - Hodder and Stoughton - 0-340-71178-7
The Actor And His Text - Harrap - 0-245-54382-1
Commedia Dell' Arte an actor's handbook - Routledge - 0-415-047706
Theatre Games - Methuen - 0-413-45380-4
Ideas For Devised Performances.
It's always a worry trying to find a stimulus that will challenge your students and give them enough scope to produce an exciting piece of theatre. In The U.L.E.A.B. Drama syllabus, teachers are able to give students the stimulus themselves. The following are ones that I've tried, any that you wish to add can be E-mailed to me.
Amnesty International will send you a resource pack which is excellent as a starting point for developing a challenging piece. The material is quite disturbing and has a strong impact on the students. The group are given the task of producing a piece which is to be performed to the rest of the Sixth Form and aims to stir the audience into joining Amnesty and overcoming any innate apathy or cynicism.. I have found that making them perform the piece to their peers is a useful way of upping the stakes as they are determined to produce a high quality piece that will not shame them in front of their friends. It is also useful to tie the performance in to any Liberal Studies programme that the Sixth Form has running.
The impact of technology upon our lives and morals is another fruitful area for drama. I read an article by Uri Geller that claimed that technology was going to prove to be our salvation but the reality is that as human beings we constantly mess things up and pervert what is good into something horrific. The recent debate about genetic engineering and the creation of artificial life is a case in point. This discussion was the starting point for a piece, aimed at Year 10 as part of their P.S.E. studies, that dealt with the question : How can technology be our salvation when our basic, selfish nature has not changed?
Two ideas for Year 10 concern peer pressure and love. For the peer pressure, the aim was to produce a piece that would challenge the audience to admit that they limit themselves and their aspirations because of fear of ridicule from their mates and there is often a head on clash between the advice and expectations of parents/teachers and their peers. The piece on love dealt with the way that young love can be very intense and often they end up hurting each other without really intending to. This was a difficult one for the students to be objective about as at 17, they too were in intense relationships that as adults they would perhaps look upon a little more philosophically- unless your name is Ally Mcbeal of course!
If you are interested in more details of some of these ideas ,then some of the scripts of these projects can be purchased from Sales. They may be useful as a way of discussing form and structure and how they are used to communicate meaning to the audience.
Schemes Of Work.
As part of the Drama syllabus we spend some time looking at texts and/or practitioners in detail, studying the themes and the social , cultural and historical context of their work. As part of this process I have designed three schemes of work which are available from the Sales page.
A scheme of work which looks at "Accidental Death Of An Anarchist" by Dario Fo, involving a range of practical workshop activities and written tasks that can be run over 7 to 8 weeks.
A scheme of work which explores "Silly Cow" by Ben Elton. The play deals with the excesses of a T.V. critic who specialises in poison pen comments in order to get a reputation and break into television. Again the scheme features a variety of tasks which can be run over 7 to 8 weeks.
A scheme of work which looks at "Liason Dangereuse" by Christopher Hampton. A very powerful play dealing with sexual intrigue in 17th Century France. This is an absolute corker of a play that is very accessible to students, especially if they see the film starring John Malkovitch and Glenn Close.
A First Assessment.
During the first term of my Advanced course I like to spend some time building the group dynamics and giving students the opportunity to develop skills. This is especially useful if your group contains students new to Drama or to the school. At the end of the fiirst half term I set a movement and lighting assessment that allows me to evaluate how things are going and to put the group under pressure for the first time. The poem "The Jabberwocky" is an excellent piece for considering how movement and speech can be used to communicate meaning. It is also a good opportunity for the students to be let loose on the lighting rig and told to experiment with lighting to create effect. The narrative structure of the poem is useful as it forces them to consider what is going on. Is it a dream? a story told to children or a tribal legend? Who is the boy and what threat does the Jabberwocky represent? Is it to be handled literally or on a more experimental level. What style and form will best serve the interpretation of the poem that the students have decided upon?
I have videoed earlier groups attempts to show and discuss and it never ceases to delight me that groups can continue to mine such rich interpretations out of the poem. Often their initial response is that the poem is silly, but as they work, they gain a healthy respect for its imagination and the endless possibilities that the text offers. The project is a useful assessment as it allows you to guage how committed to the piece they are and how creative they can become in the way that they use space, lights, movement, voice, music and other theatrical language to create meaning.
After the piece has been performed I ask the students to write an evaluation in which they seek to explain how they used the elements of Drama to communicate their interpretation of the poem and to evaluate how successful they were in doing this. It is also useful to sit down afterwards and talk through how well the group worked well together and what lessons can be learned from this in order to better prepare them for the pressures of their first devised project.
Obviously this project is best approached by students who have had some practice at using movement in a bold way as they are often quite restrained when working with movement.
Advice On Structured Record Sheets.
The following comments have been written to assist students who are writing their structured record sheets for the A Level Drama exam. These questions will also assist students in evaluating their work.
Structured Record Advice Sheet.
The following questions are intended to help you to deepen the level of analysis that you are putting onto your sheets. The format of the answers is up to you. You may if you wish keep a set of pointers on the sheet which will remind you of the actual point you wish to make in a full essay, or you may wish to write the point in more detail. Whichever, you must make sure that you can use the sheets to answer the questions that come up in Unit 4.
1. How did your role emerge and how was it communicated?
This is so you can write about how you played the character(s). Are you using a physical approach, a verbal approach or something from your own experience. What can you identify with in the character? What is causing you problems and how are you trying to overcome this? How are you determining the walk and gestures of the character? What about the way that they speak? Are you analysing their attitude and motivation? Have you written a small biography for them? What about the use of costumes or props that help to define character. You also need to consider how the character speaks, vocabulary as well as speech patterns.
2. In what way was the stimulus material developed through the drama process?
This should include the research that you did and the ideas that you had as a consequence of this research. The ideas that you came up with on character, structure, design, staging, costume, movement, language, props, venue, ways of working, etc. You can also include the ideas that you suggested but were not used or were tried but didn't work as this is all part of your analysis of the development process.
The key is to identify how the piece developed as a result of the initial input of ideas. In particular, mention anything which may have been suggested at the very beginning as an initial response and shaped your early work, but later changed as the piece matured.
3. How did group skills contribute to the development of the drama?
Be honest here. There is no need to vent your anger and frustration, but at the same time you should be realistic. Try and write about people's different working patterns and their strengths and weaknesses. How were the various tasks allocated within the group? Are any of the group particularly good at devising or scripting? How did the group tackle the issue of directing? How did the group contribute to your own personal development?
4. In what ways were acting techniques or design elements and dramatic form used to achieve the intended effect?
Note the emphasis of the question here. You look at the rehearsal process and the final piece. Again the need to show a link between what you are attempting to "tell" your audience and how you are trying to do that is vital.
Genre: burlesque, comedy (greek, roman, black comedy, satire, romantic, commedia del arte), documentary theatre, epic theatre, expressionsim, farce, formalism, kabuki, liturgical drama, masque, morality play, music theatre, melodrama, naturalism, noh play, pantomime, pastoral, political theatre, physical theatre, realism, revue, romanticism, symbolism, theatre of the absurd, theatre of cruelty, theatre of fact, tragedy, tragi-comedy, vaudeville, verse drama and the well made play.
Form : soliloquy, monologue, dialogue, narration/narrative, episodic, cinematic( voice over, flashback, montage) , aside, physicalisation, montage, song, heightened language, plot and sub plot, blank verse, chorus, mime, alienation, repetition, simultaneity, tableau, parallel plotting, act/scene structure and thought tracking.The key here is to explain why things either worked or not. What made the form or genre so useful for communicating your ideas?
5. How did the group plan for a range of responses from the audience?
Back to the key element again. You should know how you want the audience to react to your piece. Ask friends what they thought and then try and identify why it worked, if it did, or why it didn't. How were you trying to create the reaction that you were after from the audience? You must be aware of the way in which you are seeking to use the various elements of drama in order to communicate to the audience. Everything in your drama should be planned and considered for the effect it will have on the audience. But remember, people view things differently. We all come from different backgrounds, expectations, experiences and cultural reference points. This affects the way we process and understand ideas, concepts and symbols. Don't despair if they missed the point, the emphasis here is on you being able to show that you are fully aware of the process.
6.How did rehearsals and the production process contribute to the final performance?
What devising techniques were you using in order to develop your piece? What challenges did you face during the process and how did you overcome these? After the preformance has taken place, look back, what issues were you worried about in the process of devising and how did these issues finally turn out ? If you were working towards a particular effect/genre/atmosphere in your piece, how did you try and create this in rehearsal? If you showed work in progress to your teacher or to others, how did this affect your final performance? The last few sessions running up to the performance are usually very important as it is then that the piece really begins to take shape. If you have a dress and/or technical rehearsal, what issues are raised by them and how did these turn out?
7. Explain how research material was gathered and used.
Fairly straight forward this one. The key is to trace the initial idea from the relevant stimulus and show how it developed into a fully fledged piece of the drama. You can talk about how the group shared and used source material even ideas that seemed good but somehow couldn't be shaped into something that was part of the drama.
8. Evaluate the ways in which ideas were communicated to an audience.
This is one of the many questions that relates to an essential principle in Drama, namely that of the link between what you are communicating and how you are going about it. I would start here with a statement of the main dramatic question of your piece and then a statement of the dramatic question highlighted in any sub scenes. Obviously if you can't do this then you haven't thought about what you were doing in any detail so go away and do it now. Once you have the MDQ. You can then identify which techniques ( genre and forms ) you are using in order to present the MDQ. Try and establish a clear link between the way you were working and what you wanted to communicate. If a particular style or form seemed appropriate then you need to say why. Cover all the applicable elements of drama i.e. lighting, costume, props, language, staging etc.
9. Explore the impact of social, cultural and/or historical conditions on the work.
This is linked to the MDQ. What was your initial knowledge of the subject matter? How did research affect this? Remember, if you don't have an opinion on the subject matter of your material then you are not able to say anything meaningful to your audience. What are the existing opinions of your group and your audience on the theme that you are tackling in your piece? Is there an historical perspective? Are you challenging this? Are you using any historical material or theatre styles? All pieces are influenced by your own social and cultural backgrounds.
10. Indicate how the influences and ideas of other playwrights and/or directors,designers and performers have been used.
Again a question which seeks to give insight into how the piece came about. Anything can be included in this section. Make sure that you chart the link between the source and what this became in your devised piece. You may include a person you know who provided a starting point for a character or perhaps an experience of your own which was useful in helping you to develop the piece as well as the more obvious articles, shows and pictures that you have seen. The course is meant to be an holistic one so if you can refer to work you have done in other sections of the course, so much the better.
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