I’m very proud to say that during my time at Worcester I have done a lot as a Drama student and as an Ambassador. I co-run weekly drama workshops at The Hive, I assist in drama open events, I’ve assisted with youth theatre and the National Theatre Connections project and I’m also employed as an actor!
It sounds so weird writing that down and probably makes me seem quite pretentious but it’s true, I’m a paid touring actor! AND I haven’t even graduated!
For me, the arts are a crucial part of being a human being and the work that I do through the University has allowed me to give something back to young people, prospective students and to the community. The outreach and communication team are, in a way, investing in imagination and I’m grateful to be a part of that.
In March 2013 I was employed as an actor for a University of Worcester commissioned Theatre in Education piece called ‘It’s Up To You!’ A team of four actors, including myself, and one stage manager were asked to devise an hour long performance/workshop aimed at 13/14 year olds choosing their GCSE options. We incorporated a high level music and six strong (often multi-rolled) characters that experience first-hand the trials and tribulations of balancing friendships, relationships and school work.
The programme also includes an interactive voting system and during the performance, it is the students who have the final say in the decisions the characters make. By using voting software (very high-tech!) the students votes appear on an interactive whiteboard and the majority votes determine how the performance goes. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it does mean we, as actors, are kept completely on our toes because votes are separately casted three times and you can never normally tell which route the students want the characters to take!
Choosing GCSE options is probably the first time that anyone has to make an important educational decision; and quite often these decisions affect your future. I know when I chose my options, I wanted to do Psychology purely because my friends were doing it and we got to go to our local Sixth Form College every week, not because I had any interest in Psychology! In hindsight I should have chosen History at GCSE and who knows, maybe I’d be doing something drama and history based now!
Our T.I.E programme encourages students to focus on what they’re good at, what they enjoy and addresses other decisions young people make on a daily basis but also addresses the fact that these decisions aren’t the be all and end all and it’s okay to change your mind.
As a group, we started by looking at our own personal experiences from school, revisiting memories and having a lot of laughs along the way! In reality, we were at school not too long ago and although fashions and music tastes have changed, relationships, family matters and friendships haven’t and these were what we found fundamentally important and therefore wanted to explore.
After the performance, if we have time, we talk to the students about our own personal experiences and, in turn, they can ask us questions. This lets the students know, I hope, that we understand what they’re going through because not too long ago, it was us making these decisions.
After weeks of rehearsal, we began touring the programme every school day to secondary schools across the Midlands (and even Wales!) between the 10th of June and the 5th of July. We performed in classrooms to group of up to 30 children three times a day, five days a week. We also performed a couple of times for staff members at the university and I think it’s safe to say the performance was very well received! In fact, it was so well received that we were asked to tour again at the end of January this year and also this summer. It was a bit of whirlwind, to be quite honest, and it was very tiring but also great fun.
The whole team really have been great. The programme has been directed by one of our Drama and Performance lecturers Alison Reeves, who specializes in educational theatre (as far as I’m aware) and Julie Fisher who does tons of youth theatre work and is currently studying for her MA in Drama at the university whilst working in the Outreach and Communications departments! It’s all go!
We also found late last year that the university had put us forward for a prestigious HELOA (Higher Education Liaison Officers Association) award, which we were shortlisted for! A team from the Outreach department went on to present the programme in January at the annual conference and we only went and won!
So I can now turn around and say that I’m an Award-Winning Actor! We’ve now been asked to tour the programme again this summer for four weeks and we’re also taking it to the Natural History Museum in London for a week in June as part of Universities week 2014 – all expenses paid!
One of the best things about this programme for me has been the friendships formed between the group (as cheesy as it sounds). When you’re working every single day with a small group of people, it’s fair to say you become pretty close.
Driving for miles around the country, laughing (sometimes bickering) and performing every day, doing something we all feel very passionate about is the most amazing feeling and I cannot thank the university enough for this experience. Bring on the summer!