Last Thursday and Friday I attended the annual Drama Victoria conference at The University of Melbourne. Initially this was a little strange for me, as after stepping down from the Drama Victoria Committee of Management back in March, this was the first time in fourteen years I attended the conference purely as a delegate and not someone assisting in its running behind the scenes.
Wow, what a blast this conference was! My highlights were the Day 2 keynote speaker Professor Robyn Ewing discussing arts advocacy, plus the amount of workshops catering for theatre styles. It was great to see workshops on Theatre of the Oppressed, Epic theatre, Commedia dell’Arte, Poor theatre, non-naturalism, physical theatre and so on. Another strength in the conference program was workshops on playbuilding, puppetry, warm-up games, Shakespeare etc. Delegates were not starved for quality choices, that’s for sure. As is often the case at Drama Victoria conferences, workshops fill up quickly and exhaust their allocation. A few years ago I learned to get my preferences in fast in order to avoid disappointment.
Of course, a great conference would not be special without fabulous catering and offering people time to mingle for networking opportunities. I really believe the time spent between sessions at our Drama Victoria conferences is just as valuable as the sessions, themselves. I find myself learning so much by chatting over a coffee and a muffin to teachers at other schools about how they approach a common task, timelines they employ with extended work in drama, or new resources they have found. Personally, nothing is more rewarding for me at conferences than to run into former students who are now drama teachers themselves. These moments are very special, indeed.
This year, Eli (my old university buddy) and I ran a workshop on Brecht’s Epic theatre and how to relate it to the VCE Drama course – specifically Unit 3, Outcome 1, Ensemble Performance. We tried so hard to fit everything we wanted to share with our participants into just 90 minutes by breaking our session up into 30 minutes of theory, followed by 30 minutes of scene preparation in groups, then the presentation of small epic theatre plays accompanied by post-performance discussion. We could have easily run the session for three hours, but alas, it was not to be. This was our first in a series of workshops Eli and myself will be running on different non-naturalistic performance styles at conferences over the coming years. If you were a participant in our workshop, we would love to hear your feedback below. Alternatively, if you were unable to attend this Epic theatre workshop and would like it repeated at Drama Victoria’s Jumpstart professional learning day in March 2015, let us know about that too, because we need to apply to be in the program by December 15!