Girls are currently rehearsing for our forthcoming musical, ‘Made in Dagenham’. By all accounts it’s going to be a brilliant production and I hope you’ve bought your tickets (Box Office now open!). At a time when national figures show that GCSE entries in creative subjects such as drama and music continue to decline, alongside a drop of over 10 per cent in the proportion of young people taking English literature, never has there been more need to develop the skills that the study of drama brings.
Whether studying GCSE or A Level Drama or taking part in our school productions or regularly attending Drama Club, girls are encouraged to juggle many elements in order to deliver complex and engaging meaning. There is no formula to apply that will show students the ‘right way’ and this is both liberating and scary. There is no single version of the truth when staging a script and this opens up a world of possibilities; and this always requires negotiation and perseverance. In his poem, ‘The Curtains’, Bertolt Brecht wrote that theatre-making is ‘not magic but work, my friends’. Students of drama must learn to be actors, directors, designers and dramaturgs, often all at once and on the one project. Ensemble work means they need to learn to work seamlessly with others, striving to find the full potential of a scene, struggling with the theatrical possibilities and the staging challenges of a script. Feedback to the actors is often as much about encouraging this exploration as assessing the technicality of their work. This means another, fundamentally human, set of skills is needed as, according to Drama lecturer, Duška Radosavljevi, of Kent University, ‘theatre-making anticipates an all-inclusive collaborative process’).
Twenty-first century women need agility, critical and creative thinking, the ability to work productively in cross-skill contexts and, perhaps most importantly, the courage to work where there are no answers. In Drama, our girls are building these misnamed ‘soft skills’, while nurturing a rewarding and lifelong passion for an art form that has enriched the human condition for thousands of years.