Confidence, resilience and new friendships

Despite uncertainty throughout rehearsals and difficulties gathering for performance, our Year 6 and 7 productions have led students to discover more about themselves and what it means to work toward a common creative goal.

A dress rehearsal held before lockdown commenced.

The Super Non-Heroes invites four-way collaboration

Creating a COVID-safe production to showcase the dramatic capabilities of four Year 6 classes required a novel approach. Instead of casting a single ensemble from all four classes as previously occurred, each Year 6 group has worked towards its own version of the play The Super Non-Heroes, with the aim of performing for a smaller, single-class (and therefore socially distanced) audience.

While the performances themselves have not yet gone ahead due to lockdowns, the approach has paid off in unexpected ways. “We chose the play so all students in each class could be cast in a meaningful way,” explains Annette Curran, Drama Coordinator at Grimwade House and Director of the production. “But what it also means is that there are four versions of each character, which has led the students to work together across classes to decide what their characters could be like. I’ve seen students working together on this who might never have chosen to collaborate on something otherwise.”

“The way we’ve organised the four ensembles also means students are on stage for a longer period of time,” adds Grimwade’s Head of Upper Primary Edwina Lanham. “Even though they haven’t had the formal audience, the students have already performed for each other, and the sets and costumes are waiting in the hall, ready to go if COVID-19 restrictions allow it.”

In writing about their experiences, Year 6 students shared their thoughts about overcoming audition nerves, reckoning with overconfidence, and deepening friendships with their peers. “I was very nervous and embarrassed at the start, but gradually I learned to be more confident,” says Brandon L.

“By the end of the audition, I felt like I achieved something really big and I felt really happy,” says Zoe Wang. “I walked into Alfred Felton Hall not knowing what to expect, but by the last rehearsal I thought, ‘you have got this,’” adds Isla L.

The play’s themes of inclusivity, being who you are and accepting others have continued to resonate throughout the rehearsal period. “The students have had to overcome so many battles,” Annette says. “Their resilience and tenacity has gone through the roof.”

The magic of improvisation creates Iso-elation?

“I wanted to have the boys look at the theme of isolation not just in terms of what we’re going through now, but also what it means outside the context of COVID,” says Lauren Smith, Coordinator of Drama at Wadhurst, who worked with the Year 7 drama ensemble to create Iso-elation?, an entirely new play.

The ensemble is an optional activity for Year 7 students, bringing together students with a common interest.

Using improvisational techniques to develop the play, the ensemble created characters, scenes and a narrative structure. “We don’t have lines, more the feeling of what we want to get across in each scene,” explains Joaquin Carrasco-McDonald. “Back in Term II some of us were worried we couldn’t quite see the play, but then we realised we had everything we needed as it all came together.”

“I came to the drama ensemble a little later in the process and didn’t quite understand at first that we were already working on the play but it came to make sense,” adds Hugo Brodribb, who says the experience has greatly improved his public speaking skills.

For Larz Kaluri, who is just one of the actors who plays Premier Daniel Andrews, a favourite scene is fronting his daily press conference. “At lot of it is funny, but some of the scenes focus on the more serious side of things,” he explains. “I’ve loved working on this play. It’s like we created something out of nowhere. It’s almost like magic.”

“Using improvisation gives the boys ownership,” Lauren says. “It’s been a chance to consider what they’ve been through, and to give themselves credit for how much they’ve dealt with.”

The ensemble is still rehearsing online once a week, and hope to livestream the play as soon as they can gather on campus.