GUEST POST: The Magic of the Fringe

A view from the fringe is, at times, full of glassed rainbows. These rainbows are our students. If you are in a school where drama is not high on the list of cultural priorities nor pushed to the fore like rugby league, AFL, soccer, swimming or cricket (not saying that we don’t need diversity in a school) – then this little blurb may find you smiling. It may at least make you relate to the sometimes bizarre fight to maintain the status quo of what it means to be artists.

The clock ticks madly in the library. The humidity kicks in as papers are passed around. Another staff meeting, another round of discussions. My mind drifts downwards to the booklet on top of my markbook and I stare at the insanely expensive workshops and “intensive” professional development days that NIDA run. How does a student pay for that? How does a school with no money pay for that? How do I get my drama students interested? Man, this is getting crazy.

As drama teachers we struggle. Why so, you ask. Well, we are fringe dwellers aren’t we? We exist as odd entities at our school because we deal with “dramatic kids”. Every school, public and private have their colourful characters roaming the halls and challenging authority. We, however, as the flag waving, passionate, creative artists, deal with a different colour – expression.

As some of us may have experienced being the only drama teacher in our school, the fringe is cold and isolating at times – wherefore does one share information? With the music teacher running madly around with his or her iPad fighting garage band and the connection to the interactive whiteboard that never seems to work? The art teacher marking 400 hundred African masks and preparing for her sister’s wedding in two weeks? The maths teacher across the hall yelling at Year 8 – again? The ladies in the canteen? No. The opportunity passes by like skittish kittens living under D Block. So we smile and move on. The minor miracles that do occur in our drama spaces are the most, wonderful, special, enlightening and, what I call, sparks in the dark. Even, I dare say, absolutely moving and cathartic.

I call all my drama students “actors”, for want of a better phrase – that is what they are – good, bad or indifferent – they are all trying desperately to push away the peer pressure barriers, the Facebook ridicule, the vehement texts to get up in front of an audience and confidently perform. The boy/girl ratio is always in favour of the girls – and I try so desperately to give the boys the best opportunities possible to believe in drama, to embrace drama and to see it as “awesome” not “it sucks” or “it’s gay”.

So, fellow teachers, it is now time for me to pick a play for Term 2 next year. Convincing the powers that be that it will cause less disruption than last year or the year before, that “no students will be taken out of class!” (of course they won’t), hold auditions (most likely ten times as the daily notices will not be read out) and annoy the PE staff because the MPC will be booked for all of three days just so that maybe, just maybe I might find that spark in the dark.

Until next time – Adieu.

JF Cameron, Drama Teacher.

Have you had some “sparks in the dark”? Share your special miracles in the comments below.