Necessary Ingredients for a Good Ensemble
Well, I know many of my colleagues at other schools are still in the throws of Year 12 Drama Ensembles coming up in the next few days or weeks, but for me, it’s all over! This sleep-deprived body is now looking forward to returning to a somewhat ‘normal’ existence.
The Avila College/Mount Waverley SC combined ensemble showcase was certainly well attended with about 200 people in the audience. Congratulations to the guys and girls from both schools on a wonderful night’s enetertainment! Of course, a large audience was especially thrilling for the performers who contributed so much work for the love of DRAMA!
This blog is not just read by experienced Drama teachers, but new and returning teachers and senior Drama students as well. So I thought I’d blog about just how much work is involved in getting your Year 12 Drama Ensemble together? Maybe a few teachers of Year 11 Drama may wish to ask their students to give this blog a read so these students know what they’re in for when they choose Year 12 Drama next year. Or perhaps, some last minute tips may prove worthwhile for current Year 12 students yet to perform their ensembles.
To save me from simply being verbose, I have bullet pointed a shopping list below, based on the real life experiences of my own students this year.
- there are not enough lessons in the week to complete this task in class time only
- if you are not equalling (if not exceeding) the hours you spend in Drama class each week with the hours your group is rehearsing out of class time, then something is wrong
- whatever the timeline offered by the teacher, it will seem insufficient to the student
- students have no choice but to rehearse before school, after school and weekends
- choosing the right people in the ensemble group is extremely important
- avoid selecting best friends in the group if they’re not hard workers
- a good communicator is a good listener, not a good talker
- students might as well be working at the U.N. because they’ll need to frequently compromise and negotiate on everything from costumes to scenes to scripts to rehearsal timelines
- students have a responsibility to themselves, their ensemble group, their teacher and their audience to contribute to the best of their ability … and in that order
- there’ll be times when students may dislike someone in the group and even the teacher, but they’ve got to get over it and move on
- a student’s Drama teacher is their greatest ally, not their enemy
- the Drama ensemble has to be one of the hardest tasks a student can undertake in any subject at Year 12, so don’t underestimate the nature of the beast
- hardcore Drama students are often intensely passionate, so let passion be the fuel for energy levels and commitment throughout the task
- organisation is the key to success, so if a group is disorganised, it will almost certainly produce a mediocre ensemble performance
- if a student feels they are not particularly talented at Drama or acting but enjoy the subject, it is possible to do very well in this task through sheer hard work, determination and a will to succeed
- remember, students are assessed individually on this task and not as a group
- do not underestimate the importance of research in this task, as extensive research enables a group to have a deeper understanding of the prescribed subject matter and then make better decisions as to how to intepret this as drama
- small, regular and achievable goals must be set by each group and each individual must complete set tasks for the betterment of the group as a whole
- work with individual group members’ strengths, so if one student is particularly good at accessing or making props for example, then allocate tasks accordingly
- at moments of frustration, students should be wary of shooting from the hip and only make considered statements to the group, as inflammatory comments can produce damaging results
- group morale is important, so when all appears lost, groups need to keep their spirits high and remember there is a positive in every negative, you’ve just have to search for it
- like much work in the visual and performing arts, at times the ensemble task will literally be taking over a student’s life, so one must always see the light at the end of the tunnel
- consider submitting work in other subjects due aroud performance time to teachers in advance or negotiate ahead of time an extension on other work if possible
- while a student may be concerned about marks being awarded in the performance, responsibility now shifts to include the audience as well
- focus is an actor’s best friend and without it a student will risk dropping lines, not being aware of others’ positions in the space, not synchronising actions with others or being in the wrong location at the wrong time
- if a student wishes to recieve the equivalent of an A or A+ on this task, then it’s more than acting skills and focus must be intense
- all of the five criteria for this task are weighted equally, so a student needs to treat them with equal respect and for those who may feel less talented at acting, notice the realisation of character via expressive skills is only 20% of the assessment
- engagement with the audience is crucical and students should not be deterred by the non-naturalistic style prescribed for the task, as engaging an audience in a non-naturalistic way is not only possible, but expected in the ensemble performance