Each year our AMEB Speech and Drama students work very hard to prepare creative, original and polished exam programs. As students reach the upper levels of their studies their programs, in particular, become not only a shining example of practical performance elements but also of intellectual maturity.
The last twelve months have been all about Restoration theatre for our certificate level candidates. In order to meet exam requirements, students have developed a nuanced understanding of The Comedy of Manners genre, including, but not limited to, the historical and political context, the workings of the theatre, both physical and social, the conventions of the plays, and their writers’ approaches to production (costuming, set, sound, music and lighting) and accentuation (received pronunciation - developed in accordance with the school of Oxford). But mastering an understanding of this genre of theatre and its time is just foundational knowledge - it is what students choose to do with this theatrical education that is truly impressive.
Students are required to present contrasting performance programs and, in turn, study the relationship (both points of difference and similarity) between restoration theatre and one other chosen period. This can be explained best through reference to the work of Steven J. Steven elected to theme his program ‘The Critic’, exploring the role of the critic in the world of his comedy of manners plays, and in those who wrote them. In particular, Steven noted the the historical and political transition into the restoration period which, in contrast to the era of Puritan rule, allowed playwrights a never before seen freedom to create satire. This inspired Steven to elect to present literature from the 1960s for his contrasting work, exploring the dangers of being a critic in a post world war society. These works included poetry and self-devised pieces about those imprisoned in communist Russia, as well as more well known prose and drama texts, including Animal Farm and The Crucible, texts that employ metaphor and analogy to protect the writers’ freedom of expression.
The highly intelligent way in which Steven selected these works and linked them together thematically, including various speeches and viva voce style discussions, was so impressive for his examiner that he was awarded a high distinction. But this is not Steven’s only notable accolade. Following his exam, Ms Clancy, the NSW AMEB Speech and Drama State Advisor, and Steven’s examiner, contacted the association to get in touch with his teacher and invite him to perform at the Annual AMEB Speech and Drama Developmental Workshop. This is an opportunity for teachers and senior certificate and diploma level students to come together and gain additional training and insight from esteemed members of the Speech and Drama Community, including this year’s special guest, Terence Clarke (former Head of Directing at NIDA and a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the performing arts as director, composer, actor, writer, and educator) and, of course, Steven! An exam performance is typically nerve-racking enough, but performing for a large group of teachers, fellow students, special guests and other examiners is a particularly significant feat. Steven’s program of work was handed out to attendees and used as an educational example of what students can achieve at certificate level.
This is not the first time that examiners have passed on compliments for Steven’s work and they are so very well deserved. Congratulations are certainly in order. Well done Steven - you always represent the studio and yourself in an exemplary manner!