St Catherine’s School offers the Trinity College Speech and Drama course. It is a syllabus, which is taught outside our normal drama classes featured in our Years 7 to 10 Curriculum. The classes include Speech and Drama, Individual Acting Skills, Group Performance, Shakespeare, Choral Speaking, Communication Skills, Musical Theatre and Performance Arts.

Working with our Speech and Drama teacher Ms Kathy Lucas, students are supported and guided through a series of lessons and exams. Kathy’s expertise and love of performance is key to her teaching and learning.

In this week’s Drama article, we focus on Kathy and learn more about her expertise and her approach to teaching the Trinity College course.

While at school what was the moment where you thought Drama was the subject for you?

I remember the moment exactly while at high school. As a teenager, I recall often feeling like having to simply follow rules and that no-one ever seemed truly interested in my ideas or creativity. Until that is, when I attended Drama classes. I was invited to share my creative ideas and expression was welcome. I remember suddenly feeling as though I had something to share that others were interested in. I found my voice in Drama and it was an incredible feeling of freedom and one of discovery. My inspiring Drama teacher was truly interested in me, my thoughts, my creativity and she fostered me to believe in myself and welcomed my ideas and input. She encouraged me to be excellent, and expected it to be so. For me, this was a lightbulb moment, not only did it confirm drama was the subject for me, but it engaged my interest in learning and in my overall education.

At University you studied Theatre Performance. What is a theatre form, history, acting group or individual that you have found inspiring?

So many things about studying Theatre Performance were inspiring. Mostly it was our teachers that brought forward their knowledge and experience, that I found most exciting. Having been performers themselves they shared what they had learned with useful tips, exercises, warm ups and antidotes. Moreover, it was their continued learning as professionals I found inspiring and I continue to evolve my learning within my own practice. Peter Tulloch was the Head of Acting while I was studying at University. He directed many great performers, among them Meryl Streep whom I admire as a performer. Peter’s love of a truthful performance and his techniques to make it happen will always inspire me. He encouraged us to take risks and enjoy the moments while staying true to the character we were playing.

Another brilliant teacher was my voice teacher Graham Clarke. His rich understanding of the voice and how it works technically as an instrument was truly masterful. He understood how to access our full vocal capacity and how as a performer with these techniques we could evoke the full range of human emotions from our audiences. I once watched as he worked with a student who just could not hit a note. It was incredible to witness through these vocal exercises the freeing up of this young man’s voice so he could sing. Working with him was awe inspiring. I apply many of his vocal exercises to my Speech and Drama classes.

What elements of the Speech and Drama course do you think are most valuable or most helpful for students?

Speech and Drama offers students a vast range of valuable life enhancing skills, that even though essential in Speech and Drama, may be easily applied to other areas of a student’s life. I believe Speech and Drama gives students a valuable edge in today’s world due to the skills explored within the subject, and also it nurtures rich learning through play.

The most obvious skills are public speaking skills, development of confidence in front of other people to speak in a group, vocal development and enhancement, and physical development. Other valuable aspects of Speech and Drama are the development of a student’s resilience and focus when sustaining a character, their ability to prepare and research a character and their awareness and empathy for others through exploration of characters and working in small groups, having to listen to and respect others.

Students also improve their ability to problem solve and think quickly through devising performance works, evolving their complex thinking skills, working with strengthening their memory through the rote learning of lines and remembering directions given.

Students also learn to harness the use of their body and voice effectively to convey meaning to an audience.

A student’s emotional and social wellbeing is enhanced and encouraged through Drama, and students develop the ability to stop and reflect upon the creation of theatre performances. This in turn assists them to articulate more comprehensively their understandings and awareness of the purpose and meanings of performances.

Students become greater global citizens, as they become more aware of the world around them and their place within it.

What is most enjoyable about working with the students of St Catherine’s?

Students at St Catherine’s make the experience of working with them a pure joy. The students always arrive with a friendly, fun and enthusiastic attitude. They are engaged, keen and willing to learn. I am particularly impressed with how caring, kind and encouraging of each other the students are. They work incredibly well, both collaboratively and within their individual learning. I am passionate about continuing to enhance these qualities in their learning and very much enjoy the opportunity to witness their journey of discovery through Speech and Drama at St Catherine’s. It is with much care and continued commitment I am proud to see the students thrive in their confidence, ability, skills, empathy, resilience, and personal and global integrity.

Ms Julia West, Head of Drama