Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.
Drama education in Australia
Drama education in Australia
The University of New South Wales is a flourishing drama centre from which Victoria could well take a few lessons if drama is taken up seriously here. Apart frorm the Department of Drama within the Arts Faculty, there arc three other principal organisations concerned with drama, closely connected and sometimes sharing staff and facilities, but each with a particular purpose.
The National Institute of Dramatic Art was founded in 1958, under the joint sponsorship of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the University and the ABC. The purpose of the Institute, which serves the whole of Australia, is to provide training for the profession of theatre. Students of acting and production are enrolled in two-year Diploma courses.
The Old Tote Theatre Company, a professional company, plays at the Old Tote Theatre within the grounds of the university. It presents regular seasons of classical and modern drama, and is the leading Arts theatre in the country.
The University of New South Wales Drama Foundation was established in association with the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1915. The purpose of the Foundation is to promote and encourage drama in the state of New South Wales and in particular, those activities, theatrical and educational, which have their roots in the university.
The Department of Drama itself began in 1960 as part of the School of English, and became a separate department within the Faculty of Arts of the university in 1963. The Department offers undergraduate courses in drama leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and also post-graduate courses. The courses offered are not primarily intended to equip a student for the profession of theatre—this vocational training and practice of theatre arts is catered for by the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
The Department, on the other hand, is concerned chiefly with the development of learning and taste; with liberal education and ability to evaluate. Practical problems of the stage are, however, introduced to the students. In the first year a course in theatre techniques is required, and the activities of the Old Tote Theatie, the National Institute and the students' own Drama Society provide immediate contact with theatrical activity.
There is a choice of seven units in drama, covering the history of the theatre and with dramatic literature from the ancients to the present day. Drama of recognised merit, as well as that of less well-known periods of writing, is studied in the light of relevant stage design, production techniques and theatre architecture. In a four-year BA course, a maximum of five units of drama is allowed. Students are advised to take courses in English. French, German or Spanish concurrently with their drama courses. As well as these seven units, a course of sixty lectures, called "An Introduction to Modern Drama" is offered to students of faculties other than the Arts Faculty.
Post-graduate work for MA is offered by the Department in certain areas of theatre history or for an approved thesis topic. In Sydney there exists a unique opportunity for original research at the graduate level because of many documents relating to Australian theatre history, of which only a fraction has ever been studied. It seems likely that such resources, awaiting research, exist in New Zealand.
Examples of the fields covered in the units are as follows: Drama I serves as an introduction to other drama courses and as a study of world drama complete in itself. Ninety lectures are devoted to a survey of theatre history from Aeschylus and Sophocles to the dramatists of the 20th century, and there are thirty additional laboratory classes on theatre techniques, such as staging, lighting and production. Playwrights studied include Aristophanes, Plautus, Racine, Ibsen, Brecht, Ionesco, Shakespeare, O'Neill. The apanese No plays, American, drama, English drama before Shakespeare and Absurd drama are also included. Practical work consists of simple demonstration only, using the NIDA students. Access to the Old Tote Theatre is available, and general production principles are shown there. Demonstration work is done by the professionals, not the students, otherwise sloppy amateurism would result.
Plays covered in the courses are within the repertoire of the Old Tote Theatre. Texts of these plays are given to the students for study and they are expected to write critiques of the actual productions.
Drama II and III provide a detailed examination of theatre hlstory from Classical Greece to the 20th century. Distinction courses cover specialised topics such as the theory of comedy, the theory of tragedy, and the technique of playwriting. Drama IV concentrates on special problems in theatrical and dramatic history. Textual criticism,; bibliographical methods, and research on original documents are the main concerns.— J. McC.