Dramaworks helping schools with drama teaching and exam-oriented resources

Dramaworks has been trading for twenty-one years and now has 48 drama resources geared to examinations at 16 and 18 plus, as well as numerous plays, including many especially written for examination purposes.

There are also resources aimed at the lower end of secondary schools which will ensure that all the relevant work for future examinations are covered. All resources, excluding some of the plays, are written by Jeni Whittaker, a former Chief-Examiner, who has also been a professional actor and director as well as having taught, and pilot-taught, syllabuses at the top end of schools and colleges.

For many years Jeni also travelled around the UK with workshops on practitioners, set texts and more general performance and theatre techniques. Her working life has given her a set of skills spanning both education and theatre which make these resources unique in their quality and usefulness.

Twenty-six of the Dramaworks' resources are on texts that are commonly studied at Advanced exams such as A level and the IB though some crop up at GCSE also. A silhoutte of 3 actors on stage

The plays include older classics such as Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Sophocles' Antigone and Euripides' Trojan Women and more modern ones such as Berkoff's Metamorphosis and Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good. There are also resources on plays by Brecht, Arthur Miller, Lorca, Ibsen, Chekhov and many others, old and new.

Every play is thoroughly covered from an actor's, a director's and a designer's perspective. Different pathways of approach are suggested, such as a Physical Theatre approach, an Epic Theatre approach or a Naturalistic one, so that students can make their own choices. This approach helps students and teachers to fit a play to a particular practitioner's style, from the vast list currently suggested by exam boards. No resource dictates what, say, an actor MUST do, but encourages experimentation, trial and error, throughout. All plays studied go through the whole text from beginning to end and make suggestions for follow-ups, themes and the types of question that may be asked.

There are a large number of resources on practitioners also. Practitioners covered are: Stanislavski, Brecht, Artaud, Grotowski, Peter Brook, Boal, Laban, Lecoq, Barrault, Berkoff and Kneehigh Theatre. The approach to these is, like all of Jeni's work, 'through practice.' Jeni believes absolutely that students remember what they DO, backed up by what they read and hear. In this spirit, study of every practitioner is done practically, trying and testing every theory and approach the practitioner holds to. Each section starts with a clear explanation of a theory followed by creative exercises to try each one out in the class, after which there is discussion and written diary work is suggested to keep tabs on what has been learned.

A number of resources deal with more general subject matter. These include Devising Skills, Exploring  Physical Theatre, Performing Text, a practically-based history of theatre called Understanding Drama, plus shorter resources to help with understanding the difference between Genre, Style and Context and with the Reviewing of Plays. Again, this is not a full list and as always, even when the subject-matter will lead to a written component in an examination, much of the content in all of these resources is 'through practice.'

And yes, there is some material that can be used for lower down the school: there are complete year-long lesson-plans suitable for Years 7, 8 and 9. These were written in answer to many requests from drama teachers who were so busy teaching exam classes non-specialist teachers had been handed the task of teaching drama to the lower school. The Drama Plans, therefore, can be followed pretty slavishly and if done that way will ensure that students going into a drama examination class at a later date will have all the skills they need at their disposal.

Apart from the resources written by Jeni Whittaker, the Dramaworks website hosts a large number of plays, seven of which were written by Jeni, but most of which are written by others. There are plays there for all ages, including a few for primary schools. Of the others, some are long and suitable for the school-play but more of these are specifically written for exam purposes, both for GCSE and for more Advanced levels. They have proved very popular. Those written for advanced examination purposes have ISBN numbers, as cited by some of the exam boards. There are many sample pages offered when you look at the site, so that an informed choice can be made.

The Dramaworks resources are treasured by teachers and the practical methods suggested have proved so successful that one Chief Examiner told Jeni a few years ago that she had single-handedly turned drama-teaching around from being book and desk based to being taught largely through practical means. There are a large number of free resources now available on the web but none offer such full, careful and accurate explorations of their subject matter as these.

The full catalogue of Dramaworks resources can be found at: www.dramaworks.co.uk where the Store offers digital downloads or hard copies can be ordered directly from Jeni. Any questions to Jeni can be addressed to: jeni@dramaworks.co.uk