By David Vassos
Despite overwhelming participation from students in recent theatrical productions, participation in RSGC’s academic drama program is at an all-time low in grades eleven and twelve.
“It’s the first time in my sixteen years that we haven’t been able to run, for example, a grade eleven course,” said Dr. Christopher Newton, Head of Arts.
He attributes this to a couple of factors. “People are still doing drama in the Senior School, said Dr. Newton. “They’re just doing it as an extra-curricular rather than a course.”
This is the result of increasing academic demands that require students to specialize much more than was necessary in prior years, according to Dr. Newton.
“Even by grade ten people are thinking what job they might want to have. I think that’s very limiting unfortunately, but many people are trying to be as competitive and streamlined as early as possible when they leave St. George’s and go to university,” Said Dr. Newton.
The second factor is the increasing number of artistic opportunities students have inside of school. “[Drama] has been sort of the step-child because it is not something that you take in the Junior School.” Drama is unlike Choir, Visual Art, and Instrumental Music in this regard. Newton also said that there are fewer non-academic opportunities for those other arts, which makes Drama’s extra-curricular opportunities all the more appealing.
When it comes to the Senior School, newer courses like Film Studies and Communications Technology have also drawn attention away from Drama.
Two grade eleven students, Jonathon Fisher and Will Graham, are heavily involved with theatre, but are not taking drama as a course, because it allows them to study other arts. “You can do [drama] outside of school much easier than you can do other things, other types of arts outside of school,” said Fisher. Graham’s situation is similar. “I feel like it’s kind of the thing that I can do on the side with other productions, while still being able to do other things I love, like choir.”
Even with these setbacks, Newton believes that theatre has a place in our current academic program, and insists there are huge benefits to taking it as a class. “[The arts] require people to percolate on something, collaborate, and then come up with a very exciting product, and that is useful in so many things beyond Drama class,” said Dr. Newton. Drama also requires students to explore “the tension between change and tradition,” and that exploration is useful in all types of careers.
What is the future for the Dramatic Arts at RSGC? “I think it will continue to be challenged. There may be small numbers for quite a while from here on out.”
Even with these setbacks, however, there is still an interest in theatre at RSGC, as evidenced by the participation in the grade nine and ten classes, RSGC’s Blood Brothers, and Branksome Hall’s High School Musical.
“I just love acting,” said Graham, who, along with Fisher, starred in High School Musical, and will be participating in Love, Blood, and Rhetoric, RSGC’s spring student-run theatre festival.
“It’s very exciting to see people go from being rather timid onstage when they first arrive here to being fully confident by the end of a class,” said Dr. Newton, “and that is, I think, one of the great things that I enjoy watching.”
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