Higher Drama

“If you are born with the ability to change someone’s perspective or emotions, never waste that gift. It is one of the most powerful gifts imaginable - the ability to influence.” Shannon L. Alder

Course and Assessment Description

The Academy's Higher Drama results are among the best in the country, with 100% of our students achieving an A (Band 1) grade in 2016 and a 100% A-B grade pass rate over the last three sessions.

The learning experiences in the Course are flexible and adaptable, with opportunities for personalisation and choice. Higher Drama provides opportunities for students to develop skills in acting, directing, technical (lighting/sound) and design (costume, set, props, hair and make-up) roles. This Course focuses on the development and use of complex drama skills and production skills to present drama. This Course is practical and experiential.

Students will study a number of classical and contemporary texts in an academic and practical way, developing knowledge and understanding of the cultural and social influences on drama. Students will analyse and evaluate how the use of self-expression, language and movement can powerfully communicate meaning. Critical thinking skills will be developed as they investigate and explore complex drama.

The course consists of two component units (Drama Skills and Drama: Production Skills) and the Course Assessment.

Drama Skills: In this Unit, students will be placed in the role of playwright, director and actor, exploring complex drama skills and ways of communicating thoughts and ideas to an audience. They will learn how to respond to text, stimulating their own creative work. They will also learn how to develop character in a range of ways and enhance understanding of form, structure, genre and style when creating and presenting drama. Students will develop knowledge and understanding of the social and cultural influences on drama. They will also learn how to evaluate their own progress and that of other students. This unit involves the exploration of a chosen issue, topic or theme through drama, leading to the devising of a theatrical presentation which will be performed to an invited audience. Each student will take responsibility for devising and directing an identifiable section of the presentation.

Drama: Production Skills: In this Unit, students will be placed in the role of a designer, specialising in Set, Lighting, Sound, Props, Costume and/or Hair/Make Up. They will use these skills to enhance drama when presenting. Students will use problem-solving skills in order to generate ideas for presenting drama. Students will choose to specialise in a minimum of two production roles and apply complex skills to a range of advanced stimuli, including text. Students will work collaboratively within production teams and contribute to an assessed theatrical performance.

All elements of the Higher course will be supported by relevant theatre visits, some of which may be in the evening. Live digital theatre screenings will also be arranged with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Old Vic. This part of the course is essential to the final course assessment.

Homework will consist of the study of a number of classical and contemporary texts. Essays covering these texts and the evaluation of live theatrical performances will be set on a regular basis. Candidates will also be expected to write a script during the Drama Skills unit and conduct research into their chosen production roles during the Drama: Production Skills unit. The learning of lines will also be required in preparation for performance. Students are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their own learning, which is reflected in the degree of student autonomy and choice. There is a strong practical emphasis in the learning and teaching approaches for both creative drama and the exploration of text.

Course Assessment
For the final course assessment, students will draw on, extend and apply the skills they have acquired during their learning. This will be assessed through a performance and a question paper. The performance will involve the advanced interpretation and presentation of a classic text. The question paper will require demonstration of a depth of knowledge and understanding of a selected text and live theatrical performance.

Question paper
This question paper has two sections.

Section A
This section will deal with the social, historical and/or theatrical contexts of the studied prescribed text. Students will be required to demonstrate knowledge of a text they have studied in terms of content and the social, historical and/or theatrical context, and to show an understanding of how the text could be communicated to an audience through performance. The question paper will pose questions that allow students to answer from the perspective of a director or actor or designer in preparation for an intended production. Students will be credited on their ability to make use of appropriate quotations.

Section B
This Section will take the form of a written analysis of a performance that the student has seen. Performance analysis will consider areas such as:
• the genre, theme and social, historical and/or theatrical context of the performance piece
• the company performing the play
• the performance space
• the director’s intentions and effectiveness
• the acting and development of characters
• the design concepts and their effectiveness — set, props, costume, make-up/hair, lighting, sound/effects
• audience reaction
• overall impact
Students must answer each Section using a different text.

The performance has two sections: a performance and a short essay detailing the preparatory process.

Section A, titled ‘Preparation for Performance’.
Students will have selected a text to explore in depth from the perspective of an actor or director or designer. The short essay will include research on the chosen text (texts for actors) and the processes used to reach their acting or directing or design concept for the performance.

Section B, titled ‘Performance’.
Actors — Actors should prepare two contrasting roles. Performances must involve interaction with at least one other actor. Each performance will last approximately 7 - 10 minutes.
Directors — The director will prepare to direct a substantial extract of their chosen text (i.e. an act). For their performance assessment, they will conduct a rehearsal with actors from a textual extract of approximately 2 pages selected by the Visiting Assessor. The rehearsal should last approximately 30 minutes.
Designers — Students will design a set for their chosen text and choose one other production area to complement this (props and set dressing, costume design, make-up and hair artistry, lighting design or sound design). They will demonstrate their design concept for the play (this may be through the production of plans, drawings, designs, plot sheets, mood boards) and the practical realisation of this. Presentations should last approximately 20 minutes.