What Every Well-equipped Drama Studio Needs
In seeking to equip a drama department in a secondary school with a full set of resources, one overriding consideration needs to be clear - the amount of money available. However, it is still useful to have a 'wish-list' of technical resources to help with the everyday work of a busy and successful department. My list is divided into three sections:
The use of ICT in the drama classroom is becoming more widespread and can have a very positive effect on learning. Use of a word-processor, research on the internet, poster and programme design, set design, spread sheets, production and use of PowerPoint programmes in lessons or theatre productions are amongst some of the benefits available to us as teachers in an increasingly technological environment.
A list of items to obtain would be: PC/Monitor with CD facility; CD ROMs; CD Writer; Printer; Scanner; Projector; Interactive Whiteboard. These are listed in an approximate order of preference and there is usually some extra finance in schools to help with the purchase of such hardware. Becoming a department well-resourced in ICT provides the obvious benefit of additional stimulating teaching aids. It also aids the efficient running of any department.
2 Audio / Visual
This area is really the 'bread and butter' of technical resources. Cassette/CD player, television and video have long been weapons in any drama teacher's armoury. They provide more than mood and motivation in a creative subject. Music helps to create an appropriate ambience for the drama space as the students arrive. With the introduction of mini disc players and recorders in recent years, I have found their use in stage productions and practical examination work far more versatile and practical. They are easier to cue and operate under production conditions.
Obviously, the use of any music or sound effects in production also requires a decent PA system. The use of video, and increasingly DVD with its superior sound and picture quality, enable us to view students' work on film, or feature films of set texts and documentaries to increase understanding at GCSE/AS/AL/Standard Grade or Higher. A video/digital camera is also an extremely useful tool for the recording of practical work in lessons. List of items: Cassette/CD player; TV/Video/DVD player; Video/digital camera; PA system; mini disc player; A collection of music and sound effects CDs.
3 Lighting and Theatre Supplies
Reference to this area of expertise and resourcing depends on the space available to the drama department - school hall, drama studio, or a converted drama room. Lighting supplies can be provided for all circumstances and the best advice is really to contact a local specialist and supplier. Many such outlets exist in the UK. If the school becomes a regular client they will provide valuable advice and support and usually give a discount.
Resourcing a new drama studio or space could be achieved with a basic level of equipment. This would include: lighting grid; curtain trunks; curtains; wiring; lighting control systems and control desks; lanterns and accessories (brackets, safety chains, gel frames, etc.) Once again, it all depends on the space being used and the money available to the department. Some enterprising departments have either sought sponsorship or lottery funding for the installation of such equipment. Anyway, purchase is not always necessary. Routine use of lighting for lessons will only require a maximum of ten lanterns and a manual control desk.
For school productions, especially a musical, a memory control desk can easily be hired along with all the extra lighting required for the show. This can then be included in the production budget. One other essential consideration is rostra. Being able to achieve different levels in a drama space is a bonus. If this is also to be used for seating platforms then the rostra need to be steel framed to satisfy legal requirements. Steel decking is available from a range of suppliers and has the added advantage of being easy to store.
Health and Safety
This issue has to be acknowledged and risk assessments carried out for the use of all resources. This is a legal requirement and PAT testing needs to be carried out annually.
Written by Barry Slack.
Published in 'Reflections', the newsletter of National Drama, Spring 2004 (www.nationaldrama.co.uk).
First published in IQ Education Issue 12, Spring 2004.