Building confidence, empathy and resilience through Drama

While some students may have a natural inclination towards performance, for many others, standing up in front of an audience is an extremely challenging proposition. However, as I hope all Drama students eventually come to understand, the work we undertake in a Drama classroom is about much more than learning to stand out on stage.

There are, of course, the obvious benefits a Drama class offers: greater confidence, better public speaking skills, and the opportunity to work with others towards a common goal. Communication, collaboration and cooperation are all built into any drama practice, whether we are engaging in a simple improvisation exercise or working on a full-scale production.

Then there are the demands Drama places on us to step into someone else’s shoes. When we take on a character, we are required to consider their history, their point of view, and the ways in which they would respond to a given situation. Through exercises that ask us to inhabit another person’s perspective, we cannot help but develop a greater sense of empathy for our fellow human beings.

There are also technical skills students learn in the Drama classroom – those related to voice, movement, gesture, focus, timing and awareness of space – that are as applicable in real-world situations as they are on stage.

Defining success and failure in the Drama classroom

Vitally, in the Drama classroom, there is no such thing as ‘failure’. In fact, if we are using that word, it is always as a positive, in reference to a risk that was worth taking and will be learned from. Drama students come to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect performance, that mistakes are completely acceptable, and that fear can be embraced as a normal part of trying something new.

Celebrating success in the Drama classroom recognises that not every student will be confident, and some will need extra time, or a new approach, to come out of their shell. From my perspective, a student who takes two to three steps in the right direction is as worthy of recognition as the completely capable performer. Everyone has a different path to achieving their own performance milestones.

Parents often tell me how glad they are that their child is studying Drama. They see the impact it has on their overall ability to connect and communicate with others.

Developing understanding and empathy

Above all, Drama is about storytelling. When we perform, our goal is not simply to stand in the spotlight, but to honour another person’s experience and communicate it to others. Again, the people we play on stage may be very different from who we are, and this continues to deepen our understanding of the richness of human experience.

Naturally, not every student who spends time in the Drama classroom will go on to become an actor, or even to take on a role in the arts. But no matter where our life path leads us, we will always need to draw on our empathy, our ability to connect with others, and our willingness to take an imaginative approach to the next challenge.

Mark Brady
Head of Drama

About Mark Brady

Mark Brady holds a Bachelor of Teaching from the University of Technology Sydney and a Bachelor of Performance with Honours from the University of Western Sydney.

Before becoming Head of Drama at Melbourne Grammar in 2010, Mark taught Acting and Directing at NIDA, The Actors Centre, the University of Ballarat, the University of Western Sydney and The Australian Theatre for Young People.

As an actor, Mark has performed in shows with the Bell Shakespeare theatre company, Sydney Theatre Company, and Opera Australia, just to name a few. Mark also appeared in feature films and television series in Australia and internationally. Mark is also a professional director.