Well, it has taken me a few days since the annual Drama teachers’ conference in Melbourne to hit the blog. My apologies for infrequent blogging lately. The lead up to the conference involved other time consuming duties that kept me away from the trusty blog.
And what a wonderful conference it was! Congratulations to Jim Lawson and Gail Bailey at Drama Victoria and of course, our committee member and this year’s Conference Director Nina Rossini, for a job well done! The Drama teaching community is after all a relatively small one, so it was fantastic to see about 330 teachers participating in our two-day extravaganza.
The Drama Victoria conference is (by some margin) the biggest state Drama teachers’ conference in the Australia. In Victoria, we also have the largest membership of any state Drama association (Queensland coming in 2nd) and I can say with some confidence after attending the last two International Drama/Theatre and Education Association (IDEA) conferences in Canada (2004) and Norway (2001), Australian Drama teachers can hold their heads high on the international stage, as we are among the best in the world. At the end of the day, the Drama Victoria conference is planned and run by Drama teachers like many of you reading this post, volunteering their time for the love of drama education. We don’t even have a formal conference organiser to get the gig up and running!
On a personal level, my biggest disappointment at the conference was missing seeing Day 1 keynote Professor John O’Toole speak, as I hear from others he was fantastic. Unfortunately I had more than a few technology problems to iron out for an afternoon session of my own on blogging, as Melbourne Uni’s wireless Internet network simply did not want to behave for me.
There were oodles of workshops on everything from puppetry to ancient Greek myths, from stage lighting to improvisation and circus to Commedia dell’Arte. For those wishing to hear papers, choices ranged from constructing Drama curriculum for boys to Creative Arts Week activities.
Hearing Day 2 keynote speaker Simon Woods was a highlight for me. Delving into the backbone of how a recognised Physical Theatre company operates (Zen Zen Zo) was fascinating. Who would have thought an artisitc director of a theatre company would have links with an Australian Rules Football club in the Brisbane Lions?
Most interesting were the 7 Principles of Culture, as outlined by Simon. I scribbled them down on a piece of paper in my folder, so here’s hoping I recorded them somewhat accurately! All I remember at the time was that they would be useful for us all. But…..I am writing this blog at home and seem to have left my notes on this at work, so I shall blog them tomorrow!
But some of the most popular workshops were once again what I call ‘the essentials’. Caught in the midst of a changing Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Year 11 and 12 Drama and Theatre Studies curriculum, sessions on the new courses starting next year, were, as expected, full of people and very, very worthwhile for the participants. Ditto for sessions on the new Years 7-10 curriculum, the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS). So, the conference was definitely buzzing!
Our two performances were also excellent showcases of educational theatre. Another Brisbane-based company, RealTV presented a great new work in Hoods. Sort of a back-handed compliment when I say what a hard act their recent Children of the Black Skirt was to follow. But Hoods was an engaging and thought-provoking piece of theatre with just two actors. Similarly, Zeal Theatre‘s performance of The Best Little Town in the World was full of energy and caricature. This was a world premiere, pushed ahead of its scheduled release just so Drama teachers at our conference could get a glimpse at an exciting new work for teenagers. Both these performances had the added bonus of the Brechtian technique of playing mutliple roles, as well.
On a final note, congratulations to all those who won awards at the conference. The Drama Victoria awards are getting a bit of a name for themsleves these days. In recent years we have had people flying from interstate to receive awards, while others have even filmed the occasion. There are three awards I would like to make special mention of. Firstly to Goran Banyai for his wonderful new book (well, it’s been out 12 months now) Drama Class which is a comprehensive Years 7-10 Drama curriculum, year by year, term by term, topic by topic (the level of detail is extraordinary). Secondly, to Kage Physical Theatre for their stunning performance of Headlock at the Malthouse Theatre. Finally, congratulations to Richard Sallis for his Lifetime Achievement Award. After doing so much for Drama Victoria over the years, from President to Director of Programs and more, I don’t think one person in the room on Friday even thought twice about Richard being the worthiest of winners for this esteemed award.
Until next year….