Student thespians back to improvisational best

Diocesan Theatresports has exited stage left a few times since it kicked off 25 years ago, but it improvised a beautiful return this year and created a great vibe. 

There was a real energy in the air when selected drama students from Years 9, 10 and 11 from across the Diocese came together on Wednesday 3 March. Drama is a practical subject, but Covid resulted in many restrictions on theatre, especially live theatre.  
Alana Partridge is the Education Officer at the Catholic Schools Office. She says it is great for the students to get the opportunity to perform before a live audience and test the improvisation skills they have been practising. 

“It's vital for their coursework,” Ms Partridge said. “And you can see the progression of those in Year 9 to those in Year 11. Those in Year 9 are just starting and just learning these games and improvisation skills, and they can look up to the Year 11 students as they're doing this. 

“It's a really positive vibe as well. It's a very safe environment for them to perform. There's no humiliation that takes place. Everyone gets a big cheer no matter what their score is.”  

Each school from across the Diocese can enter two teams per year group. But irrespective of the number of students in a team, only four can perform onstage at any given time. Teachers decide the four performers.  

Some campuses, such as St Francis Xavier’s at Hamilton, have in-school competitions from which they select their teams. Then there are schools such as St Peter’s that bring their whole drama class of six students. 

“Dio Theartresports is an opportunity,” Ms Partridge said. “Nothing is marked or assessed. But it is also a building block for their acting. For those who want to move on and pursue acting, these are the stepping-stones they can use. 

“It's joyous and it's fun. They love it. They are all well behaved, all on task, all doing exactly what they need to do because they're so engaged in the activity. Considering students have travelled from Aberdeen and from Taree today to be here, that's really impressive.” 

Many of the students know each other from Aspire and the private drama groups around the Hunter region. Friendships have formed over the years. Noticeable this year was the number of boys in attendance, a result of great role-modelling from some of the male teachers in the Diocese. 

Following Theatresports, the students will then participate in Dramafest, a workshop where they learn specific skills such as voice improvisation, accents, physical theatre, clowning and juggling. 

“It's another opportunity for the students to all come together again,” Ms Partridge said.  

“Hopefully, these students will go back to their schools inspired. They'll go back with innovative ideas, new ways of doing things they've seen, especially schools like St Bede’s, which is just starting. They have been able to watch the Year 11 students performing and now they will go back with new ideas for play building and improvisation.  

“It is peer teaching,” Ms Partridge said. “Observing, some of the older students is really good for the younger ones.” 

Theatresports is a “promotional day” for Stage 6 drama. It provides a good insight for Year 9 students if they are considering drama as an HSC elective. Many diocesan students are chosen for Onstage, the HSC performance of the year.  

“They all come out of this kind of activity, they're so used to practising and performing,” Ms Partridge said. 

Images by Callam Howard, Drama Teacher at St Clare's Taree 


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