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Twelve Days of Theatre

by Phil Duchene,

Instructor at College of the Rockies

and in the Faculty of Education, University of Victoria.

Once again, two courses of COTR/UVic students from the Teacher Education Program enjoyed twelve days of Stage Door day-time theatre between January to April 2022. The course culminated in two performances with four plays around social justice issues and a friendship themed story drama. The undergrads hosted three Intermediate classes from Steeples Elementary for happy and worthwhile introductory theatre experiences.

Instructor, Phil Duchene

As a Drama Educator, it is imperative that Teacher Candidates’ Drama course work is both relevant and is seen to work with younger students. The Stage Door, of course, gives us the perfect learning setting for our Year Two and Year Three T/Cs. Everyone involved gets to work in a real theatre supported by a welcoming management and Board and even technical expertise. I feel confident in saying there is not a comparable performing Arts experience for Teacher Education courses either in the Province, or likely in Canada. We really should celebrate this connection as widely as we can - I am already known for way-laying unwary colleagues at home and abroad and sharing our good fortune.

The COTR students’ own words invariably carry the best heart-felt response to their 36 hours of each course’s time in the Stage Door.

These are a few reflections about a "Key Moment" from this semester’s course work:

Much like our instructor Phil said at the end of our final session, the way that teachers feel when they are in the classroom with students, can be comparable to how some actors feel on stage. It’s natural and feels like something you were born and intended to do. This was my “tilt” moment. For me, this was an out-of-body, “everything comes full circle” instance – not only in this course, but in my general life as well. Prior to this moment… I never in a million years would have imagined myself participating in a play – never mind in a role with such focus… But… there is some sort of magic about the stage, and the act of embodying someone else, that dissolved any feelings of anxiety.

Student E

After (the show) there was a workshop for the students. I was invited back on the stage, as myself, for the children to ask any questions they had about the play. One student asked, “Why do you like acting?” I answered honestly by saying “I struggle with anxiety and talking in front of a group of people scares me. Becoming a character allows me to pretend to be someone else who is not afraid to speak.” Right there is when I thought to myself, “This is the moment.” Student P

Our plays touched on topics of homophobia, immigration, capitalism, and cyber bullying. Afterwards our instructor was teaching the students different drama structures to extend the students learning of the concepts presented in the plays. To be honest I was a bit skeptical that these grade fives and sixes would engage with the structures however, I was proven wrong. When students’ hands started shooting up in the air, I became so encouraged to see that these students had become so engaged with the plays’ concepts. Student H

My key moment during this drama class was after our shows and workshops and were sitting on stage answering questions from the audience. This struck me as my marking moment because it represented my general philosophy towards why I use drama as a teacher…Creating a (safe)space on the stage where everything and everyone is accepted as an individual makes a headspace where previously anxiety driven concepts can instead harmlessly slide off the mind leaving no bad traces behind.

Student R

The best moment for me was when the students got the opportunity to go up on the stage and be a part of the Conscience Alley activity. This was the exact moment I could see the impact that drama work can have on students, as there were so many students who were excited to get the chance to go up on the stage to experience a small part of drama structures. Hearing the students’ thoughts about what the grandma might have been thinking as she walked away from the plane was both heartbreaking and eye-opening. Student B

I took the role of director to get out of my comfort zone. This put me not only in charge of my learning of the play but put me in as the leader of my group's learning. I embraced skills in many areas of production including warm-up activities, program making, sound/music and lights. These skills are ones that I will be able to incorporate into my future teaching… One of the biggest learning moments for me during the play was learning the theatre light board. I have never worked with a light board before, so this was something new for me. What started as a quick tech run-through soon turned into creating a full light show for the production. Student K

I asked to do the lighting and sound for the production because I remember doing that in middle school for our productions and absolutely loving it. The Stage Door was a place where we would often perform plays for our parents, so I was almost motivated by nostalgia. In the tech booth, I was constantly learning new techniques and tools to help fix lighting or sound. The process was fun and enlightening, but also quite frustrating and it felt like a lot of pressure.

Student R

Sitting backstage before the play started talking to peers, I knew that I was not the only one nervous. I was the last to hit the stage for the final bow and it was neat to see all my peers smiling from ear to ear and hearing the crowd clap. Standing out there I could not help but feel accomplished. It was a full circle moment. If you had asked high school me if I was ever going to be in a play I would have said, “Not a chance.” Hearing the claps made me realize that I can do the things that scare me, and they can turn out to be a lot of fun. Performing in this play was also really special to me because my grandpa loved theatre and was in every community production growing up. He always encouraged me to do things that scared me. I know he would have loved to hear about my first experience being in a play. Student K

The four plays were finished, and we all went back on stage to take a bow… we made a semi-circle and took each other by the hand. I felt the warmth beaming off the lights as they shone into my eyes on stage, and although I could not see the audience, I heard the clapping from the audience, and I just thought “Wow, we did it.” We all took a bow and coming back up, I scanned the stage, and all my classmates had the biggest smiles on their faces. Less than an hour prior to that exact moment, my heart was racing due to nervousness of going on stage, but now it was racing due to excitement. Student D

For a Grade 5/6 student audience, I had anticipated these serious topics to have just gone over their heads. Yet they were continually engaged and asking such inquisitive questions. This made me reflect on how else one could have taught these topics- homophobia, capitalism, cyberbullying, and immigration. It is challenging to think of any better way that would leave such an impact. Student M

And there we have it. I tell the T/Cs, “I wish I was you,” and I mean it, just to put on those cool glasses again, the ones that bring new theatre experiences into such sharp, colourful focus.

Our gratitude goes as ever to everyone in CCT, COTR and UVic who encourage and maintain this wonderful opportunity to work in a living theatre as a part of the Province’s Teacher Education Program. We hope to come back in the Winter semester 2023!

Phil Duchene

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