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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 12. 1966.

Drama unit unlikely

Drama unit unlikely

Victoria, with better theatre facilities than any other New Zealand university, has so far failed to obtain a drama lecturer. Meanwhile it is rumoured that a unit course in drama is proposed for Auckland University on the completion of its new Student Union building which includes a theatre—although this will not take place in the near future.

The position of lecturer in drama has for several years appeared in the university calendar under the English Department. No action has been taken in recent years to fill it. Although it is in abeyance, the funds are still available should an appointment be made. The University Council is at present awaiting a report on drama in the university from the Professorial Board.

The university Drama Club is especially interested in the possibility of such an appointment. Inquiries made to the English Department last year by the Cultural Affairs Officer revealed that the proposal had been rejected. At their AGM, the drama club agreed that steps should be taken to ascertain the present attitude of the university and to sound out the question of a drama lecturer. In other universities such as Otago and Auckland the presence of several novelists and poets arouses interest in these fields. Victoria, with its well-equipped theatre (including a full-time technician for the past two years), is well placed to specialise in drama.

The Drama Club would like to see the establishment of a two or three year visiting lectureship in drama. This could cover both practical and theoretical aspects. Such a post could perhaps attract overseas applicants. The chief need, it is felt, is to provide an incentive and to stimulate student interest in drama.

As far as the university administration is concerned, the proposal has been dropped for the present. Three or four years ago the position was twice advertised and some applications received. However, no agreement could be reached on the nature of the agreement or the terms of appointment. Various possibilities were considered. Firstly, a lecturer in practical drama's makeup, set design and other technical aspects of production as well as acting. This would involve a half-unit or unit course. There was, however, considerable opposition within the university to the inclusion of such a unit in a BA degree. It was also considered illogical to have a course by itself when there was no drama school to continue training.

Other proposals were that the lectureship would cover both theoretical and practical aspects and be available for student productions; or should cover the history of drama only, which seemed redundant.

It was also not decided whether the appointment should be permanent for two or three years or subject to regular review.

It is questionable whether a lecturer in drama need be within the English department. It has been suggested that an independent position be established, similar to that of the physical welfare officer. This would provide someone to work with any department involved in drama, for instance the Modern Languages or the Classics departments as well as English. He could also give occasional lectures and work with the Drama Club.

This would involve a much greater use of the theatre than at present. However, this could raise problems, for although the club has priority over outside organisations in booking the theatre, it is on an equal basis with other student clubs. The Drama Club does not see this as a drawback because the theatre is largely unused during the day time except during lunch hours. The Student Union Management Committee, which administers the theatre, would be sympathetic to increased use by the Drama Club, but it could not offer any financial assistance should an independent drama position be established.

Another consideration is the limit that would be imposed on the Drama Club's choice of producers. However the club feels that consistent work with one person for two or three years would be highly beneficial. Productions could be worked to a budget provided by the club. Also training and opportunities for student producers would be encouraged.

Dramatic training facilities in New Zealand at present are limited. There are some part-time theatre schools such as the New Theatre School and Repertory's Green Room School in Wellington. There were proposals to begin a drama school in Otago, but although there used to be a lecturer in drama there, at present nothing is being done.

Wellington Teachers' Training College has a speech and drama lecturer within the English department, who also organises student productions. As well, two more academic drama courses are given. These include play readings concerning the course and instruction in set design, lighting and other techniques. Two small model theatres are used to illustrate different aspects covered in the course.

The Theatre Centre, set up one year ago to co-ordinate national drama activities, has not yet taken any steps towards establishing a school. There is already a national ballet school in operation. It has been suggested that the Polytechnic College would be a suitable place for drama training; however, nothing has been done in this direction. The Theatre Centre is at present awaiting a report on the possibility of setting up a training centre to produce professional actors. This is being given priority among its activities. The establishment of "Down-stage" and the recent touring productions have created a steady demand for well-trained professional actors.—J.McC.