Reflection: Drama Victoria Conference 2014

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!

7 Responses

  1. Thanks for your feedback everyone! Much appreciated. A repeat of the Epic theatre workshop from this year’s conference will run at Drama Vic’s Jumpstart professional learning day on Saturday 14 March 2015 for those who missed out.

  2. E-K says:

    Thanks Justin, I really enjoyed the workshop. When you started speaking this website came to mind, but it took me a moment to realise you are The Drama Teacher. I have used this site quite a bit since I started teaching Drama, so thanks for this too 🙂

    I like the idea of presenting briefer prescribed structures like you showed us on a simple PowerPoint slide – I think that I usually write too much on handouts and the students end up reading very little of it! I have already made up some new structures for my 2015 students.

    I am looking forward to the next installment at next year’s conference – I will definitely be getting in early to make sure I don’t miss out.

  3. Emma says:

    The workshop was a fabulous source of information. The power point theory section was excellent and informative, well presented, clear and concise. Being able to take the notes home an excellent way to prompt the memory! The workshop was great too- inventive, well resourced and interesting. It was good to jump in and have a go at puling together an ensemble performance! So all fantastic and greatly appreciated. If you were to ask me what else I wanted from the session it would be the following! I think there would have been great benefit in some of the conventions and concepts during the theory lecture being explored in a practical sense. As a way of demonstrating the theory. I would have loved to see how you and Eli teach some of these conventions. To help inspire or grow my own teachings. After the lecture a crash course in the main conventions…? Huge respect for both of you and I look forward to the next installment!

  4. Laura Zinghini says:

    Your workshop was fantastic! Your discussion around theory and the resource PowerPoint was not only relevant, but also reassured me that I am teaching the right stuff! The practical workshop demonstrated the true skills of our colleagues and that it helped me to empathise with my students around time limits!

  5. Caitey Wilton says:

    I would love that to be at the Jumpstart conference in March. I did not get to go to the conference the other week unfortunately as It clashed with other school dates, but I found last years conference invaluable.

  6. Andrew Byrne says:

    Sorry I didn’t chose your workshop! This is what is needed – practical and relevant workshops! It was a wonderful conference!

  7. Kelli Simpson says:

    I would have loved it to go 3 hours!! I am a new to teaching and new to teaching drama and in 90 minutes you helped me ‘get it’. Thankyou

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