Drama is taught by a specialist teacher to all students from U2 to U4 and at GCSE level for those choosing it as an option. Drama in education, whilst using acting techniques, does not aim to produce actors but to enable students to understand topics and issues through empathy. It increases confidence and enables communication skills to develop. It is our aim that all our students be comfortable to stand in front of a group of people and present an idea, product or point of view. In addition to the curriculum, for those who enjoy this subject and wish to extend their knowledge and skills, Lamda classes are available as an extra-curricular activity which enable students to study for examinations in ‘Speaking Verse and Prose’, ‘Solo Acting’, ‘Reading for Performance’ and ‘Public Speaking’.
In conjunction with the Music department, Mrs Zoller also produces a play each year which is performed in June. Some recent productions have included, ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Cats’ and ‘A Day in the Life of St Joan’s’.
Students wishing taking part attend rehearsals after school in preparation for this. They also have some weekend rehearsals just before the opening of the play and some attend dance rehearsals, with Mrs Gardner, or singing classes, with Mrs Schultz, at lunch times in order to perfect their roles. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the joy of theatre and to learn commitment, team work and memory skills as well as the acting skills necessary to perform a full length production.
This year Mrs Zoller directed a choral verse group who rehearsed diligently from September to November on Wednesdays after school to enter the Chelmsford Festival where they were awarded second place with honours!
Theatre trips are also an important part of Drama studies. This country has a great tradition of theatre and is a part of the culture that our students are encouraged to embrace. This begins with the very British tradition of pantomime and all our lower school pupils have the opportunity of attending a professional production every Christmas. In the Senior school trips are arranged to both local and West End theatres whenever possible. Our next is to see ‘The Woman in Black’ which follows on from the study of the script in Drama lessons.
Workshops with professional actors are also a feature of Drama within St John’s. Following the pantomime visit workshops are delivered on the subject of the panto by a director from The Old Vic theatre. Shortly we are to be visited by a professional theatre company who will be taking workshops entitled ‘The Life of Shakespeare Horrible History Style’. These, again, follow on from a scheme of work based on what we know of Shakespeare’s life.
Because of our serious attitude to drama we are fortunate to be on the lists of various casting directors who from time to time approach us seeking young people to take part in films or advertisements and we are always happy to provide them with the facilities necessary to audition those students who meet their criteria.
Likewise we are frequently sent audition dates by local theatres needing children for productions and are always happy to suggest to talented students that they attend these and then facilitate their attending rehearsals and performances. Recently one of our students has played a role in ‘The Sound of Music’ at The Palace Theatre and over the Christmas period our students have taken part in a number of professional pantomimes including ‘Peter Pan’ at The Civic Theatre, Chelmsford, ‘Snow White’ at Thameside’, Grays and ‘Cinderella’ at The Towngate Theatre, Basildon. We are extremely proud of them all.