CREATING A DRAMA STUDIO
Many schools don’t have a designated drama studio but some have recently begun to convert old classrooms, or mobile classrooms, into drama spaces. If you are looking to create a drama studio in your school, here are some recommendations:
- Your studio should, ideally, be on the ground floor. The nature of drama and performance means that there will, inevitably, be some noise so pick a room where sound travelling won’t be an issue.
- Lay a track of floor to ceiling black curtains around the room. This provides a neutral backdrop for any work but also allows walls to be exposed for variety. Black curtaining enables you to use any lighting more effectively and reduces the number of distractions. It’s also practical, provides some sound insulation, and can be used to cover windows to prevent nosey students from staring in! If you want to, you can get creative with the layout to provide even more variety of room shaping.
- If you can’t afford a complete run of blackout curtains, paint the walls black and use blackout blinds at the window.
- Lighting is important as it creates atmosphere and helps with any performances the students might create. Strip lights are okay for general drama activities, but a decent drama room should have the option of spotlights too. These should be positioned so that they - at the very least - light one end of the room and, preferably, offer different levels of light, e.g. some tight beams and some wide flood lights (or general wash). They should also be easy to move and reposition. If installing decent spotlights isn't an option, you could use free-standing spotlights that can be manoeuvred into position. Buy two smaller sets rather than one large set as this will give you lighting from two different angles.
- If possible, the room should be carpeted. This is because some drama involves students working on the floor. If you are converting an old classroom, this is an important change that should be made. Carpet will also help to keep the room sound-proofed. The carpet needs to be hard-wearing, but do try not to put down anything with too much nylon in it if possible - to avoid static – it also doesn’t need to be black!
- It's helpful to have several electrical sockets in the room so that teachers can use sound equipment, lighting rigs, and so on. If you are creating a new drama studio from scratch, or overhauling an old classroom, make sure that your building plan includes a number of electrical sockets.
- Purchase at least one small table, ideally situated near to a wall socket, which you can use to place your laptop, papers, and other equipment on.
- Easy to move, stackable, plastic chairs are useful as students can use these for circle games, for when the teacher needs to share information at the start of the lesson and also for use when creating improvisations.
- Purchase some staging units or rostra. Staging units are really useful for working on things like status and for creating effective performances on different levels. If you have the money please purchase the best quality staging units or blocks for your drama room. These should be of differing heights (from, say, 1 foot to 3 feet) that can be used individually or with step units. A performance area that fills one end of your drama studio, with differing height levels, should provide all you need. Most staging you can buy is stackable, so shouldn’t take up too much room. Or you can leave staging blocks out permanently to create a mini stage. If you have a studio theatre and your audience seating is not raked, you’ll need to invest in a decent amount of good-quality staging rostra. Get flexible staging so that you can experiment with positioning, height and width.
- If possible a bathroom and/or changing room should be nearby. This is essential if you have a large drama studio where you intend to stage public performances.
- In a studio theatre some sort of theatre projection system is ideal for contemporary theatre performances. A white wall behind the staging area can act as a projection screen. Or you can move blackout curtains aside and project onto the walls in any part of the room. You’ll need to purchase a portable projector that’s capable of playing still and moving images. If budgets are tight, remind staff that this can be used for other subjects!
- If you are giving public performances in your studio, make sure that you have good-quality seating for audience members which can be easily stacked and stored away afterwards. A green room or dressing room near to the performance area is essential – a nearby classroom will suffice. A more sophisticated lighting rig, sound system, and mechanism for creating and hanging sets would be ideal but not essential.
- A large cupboard, or designated lockable space, would be really useful for storing items and equipment, such as theatre props, materials, scripts, drama resource books, costumes, and so on.
You can create a very effective drama studio for drama lessons and rehearsals on a minimal budget. Studios for public performances can be as basic or as grand as money allows. The main criterion is to produce something that is flexible which meets all your creative needs.