Today was graduation day, always a highlight of the University year, and a real opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the last three years. The ceremony in Westminster cathederal seems to get more flamboyant each year, with a trumpet fanfare greeting this year's cohort and all the staff replete in uniform white bow ties. It certainly added an element of grandeur which made this year's procession of the academics feel less Harry Potter and more like the march of the stormtroopers from Star Wars.
After a hymn and a speech the roll call began. Each student is given just a few seconds on the dias, shaking hands with the principal, before heading off to pick up the certificate. The sad thing is that, after all the highs and lows of a three year degree, this is the last time we see many of them and the time each one spends in the spotlight never seems long enough, leaving proud lecturers just one short moment in which to recall so many happy memories. Sometimes you think of a startling performance, an act of kindness or a shared joke. Sometimes you remember how they were they first arrived, occasionally a more general sense of their journey springs to mind. Afterwards we mingle outside for a while, mortars are thrown in the air and photos taken before we're ushered back to the changing rooms to derobe.
As with every year about 100 Drama St Mary's graduates come through, and they represent many hundreds of hours of shared workshop, rehearsal, discussion and performance. Alongside the standing ovations, broad smiles and parental handshakes is, for most of us, a real sense of gratitude for having the priviledge of working with such bright and positive young people.
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.