Greenwich University in London was an amazing place to be for Drama teachers July 4 -7, 2013. I was thrilled to attend the National Drama conference in the UK. The theme, Heathcote Reconsidered, was an incredible opportunity to learn from, share with and explore drama in education ideas in process drama, mantle of the expert, rolling role and more as influenced and on by the foundational work of drama matriarch, Dorothy Heathcote. National Drama is one of two UK Drama subject associations. Greenwich University is a world heritage site and there were educators from around the world itself there to share ideas on drama in education.
There were four incredible keynote speakers . First, we heard from Dorothy Heathcote’s biographer, partner in drama in education and expert Gavin Bolton. Secondly, Australia’s John O’Toole shared a humourous tongue-in-cheek and IN ROLE look at the influence of Dorothy Heathcote’s work around the world. Thirdly, Cecily O’Neill shared a moving account of Dorothy’s last unit with students and graduate students in New York University and how she taught them that “Everything we do in here is happening somewhere in the world,” by listening to where the young people took the drama and following their lead. Finally, illustrious Canadian David Booth gave us a poignant speech on the influence of Dorothy’s work in his own life’s work and the importance of drama on the future.
Canada -and CODE!- were well represented. Kim Snider shared her wonderful workshop on a Mantle of the Expert unit with co-teacher Matthew Readman. Christine Jackson shared a thought provoking and experiential process drama workshop. Professors Lynn Fels (Simon Fraser University) and Kathleen Gallagher (OISE, U of T) moved me with their research and thinking on Dorothy’s work as it influenced inquiry, reflection and action through drama. Juliana Saxton and Carole Miller captured my imagination with their reflection back on the influence of Heathcote’s pedagogy. I was also fortunate to attend sessions by Mantle of the Expert experts from New Zealand, Ireland, Norway and other places. I was thrilled to learn from and sit on an animated panel discussion: New Voices, New Challenges moderated by Philip Taylor from NYU. Our Canadian cheerleaders, drama educators and CODE leaders themselves, Jane Deluzio, Judith Doan and Rochelle Matthews were there every step of the way, sharing their expertise and perspectives.
On the last day, we also experienced an international rolling role work. It was a process drama enacted digitally across continents to tell a mythical sustainability and stewardship story of the students’ creation called: The Water Reckoning. Teachers in Australia, England, Greece, Singapore and the United States guided the process with found artifacts, messages in bottles and role plays.You can explore this amazing project by checking out this website: www.water-reckoning.net
It was an exciting conference, from Thames river boat rides to Covent Garden, Canadian night pubs, amazing workshops, papers and panel discussions and a final conference dinner celebration that included a cable car ride! What I am taking away from the event though is memories of connecting and learning with passionate and gifted drama educators from the UK and around the world and in my own backyard – the Canadians! Thank you to organizers Pamela Bowell (another great process drama expert worth knowing - I bought her book co-written with Brian Heap: Planning Process Drama) and National Drama conference committee for a fantastic experience.
Do check out the National Drama website: www.nationaldrama.org.uk The organization has all kinds of great resources including a magazine.