We're getting to the business end of the year now where lecture classes begin to look more directly at the assignments and students begin the switch from idealistic consumers of new knowledge to pragmatic foragers for good grades.
For some pathway Drama students essay writing is really tough. Our focus on practical training means they're only really producing 6,000 words a semester and whilst many are grateful that the bulk of their time is spent in rehearsal rooms rather than libraries, it does mean an additional pressure that the joint honours students, who produce essays every fortnight, don't have.
This can lead to a mean approach with students looking to find out the minimum they have to do to pass rather than embrace the assignment as an opportunity to research and develop further their own unique interest in a field. The one off assessment also encourages a kind of conservatism, borrowed from their schooling, of believing that if clear guidelines are followed, high grades are guaranteed. There is some confusion when lecturers feign vague on this matter or answer student questions with further questions.
Overall though I do sense in the Level 1 and Level 2 classes that I teach a slight shift and the beginnings of an understanding that turning over your essay is the tip of a much more impressive ice berg. Reading plays and going to see theatre may exercise different creative muscles to physical and vocal workouts but are just as vital in developing an understanding and cultural security about the profession. Drama students seem to work more naturally from the inside out, finding expression for their experience. It soon runs dry though if they're not investing the other way. Looking at the world beyond themselves and storing their discoveries for the future. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.