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Good Devised Topics

Discussion in 'Drama and performing arts' started by Retro Bates, Jun 24, 2011.

  1. Retro Bates

    Retro Bates New commenter

    I have tried lots and lots of topics and themes for GCSE devising work

    I've done War, Dreams, The Holocaust, creative adaptations, Memories, Every conceivable TIE topic and so on.

    I'm thinking of 'Civil Rights' as an umbrella but fear that it's a bit too big as a topic.

    The students research the topic over the summer and return with a folder full of goodies.

    I wonder if any of you can recommend some good topics with substance.
  2. It's interesting how GCSE specs make the false assumption that devised work should start with a story. I cannot think of a single devising theatre company that takes a theme as it's starting point. Drama is the acting out of stories. Emma Rice, director of 'Kneehigh' writes ' There is no formula to the way we make theatre. However, it always starts with the story'. Perhaps you should look for a good story rather than a theme; find the story then find the themes. The 'holocaust' is a story, 'war' is not. Look for sources of stories - history, currenty affairs, folk tales etc Don't do civil rights do the story of, for example, Steve Biko or the suffragettes and so on. Find the story, then get your students to research it.
  3. The first sentence should read
    'It's interesting how GCSE specs make the false assumption that devised work should start with a theme'.
  4. Currently coming to the end of a devised thematic piece with my Year 10s. Their stimulus was 'Journeys.' They've really enjoyed it, and have been enthused by how broad they have been able to delve with this starting point. In the past, I've also done 'The Fateful Day,' and 'The Seven Deadly SIns.' Hope this helps.
  5. As a school in Wales, I have found the Aberfan disaster a story with great human depth, and it has potential for innovative exploration. There is a wealth of research material, from photographs, to testimonies, and records of the attitudes of those in authority to locals warning of potential disaster. There are more contemporary wrinings in the forms of poetry and short stories; as well as links to the Labour government turnabout on compensation. We have integrated song and other languages successfully into devised performances on the theme.
  6. Aberfan is a great disaster story. I've just finished working on a physical theatre piece about the Bhopal disaster - the biggest ever environmental disaster: killed more people than 911but because it happened in India nobody in the West cares. The events in the japanese city of Minamata is also an excellent disaster story - Belgrade TIE did a play about in the 1970s.
    I was thinking about civil rights stories; the stories of
    Rosa Parkes:
    Medger Evers:
    Nelson Mandela:
    The 'Disappeared' in Argentina. There's a script in 'Ten GCSE Plays' Pearsons.
    Jan Palach - teenager; set fire to himself as a protest in the 'Prague spring'
    The Prague Spring also the Arab spring.
    Suffragettes - lots of stuff for girls
    Emily Wilding Davis - suffragette who threw herself under the King's horse in the Derby.
    Tolpuddle martys
    Aung San Suu Kyi
    'The White Rose' - nazi germany - nonviolent protest by a courageous group of german teenagers who were all executed - great story.
    Women on strike in Dagenham 1968 - just been made into a film.
    Grunwick women's strike 1970's
    The crucial thing is to get your students to find an interesting style with which to tell the story.
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  7. I've just thought of another very good powerful story which I've used to devise a GCSE play: the story of Ayat al-Akhras and Rachel Levy. Very powerful and moving story - Ayat was a teenage female palestinian suicide bomber, the only person she killed was an Israeli teenager her own age called Rachel Levy. Tragic story on both sides. Plenty of internet material.
  8. Agreed!
    As a Welsh teacher in England - we explored Aberfan when our stimulus was "The Fateful Day." This opened up so many doors for us, allowing us to also delve into the Omah bombing tragedy, Hillsborough etc.
  9. I tend to agree about a story, but it needs to be a bit 'dramatic' to avoid slipping into a documentary. Therefore finding a way to 'grip' an audience is essential rather than it washing over you, and hoping the story is of interest.
    War Horse has a story, albeit a very weak one....boy finds horse, boy loses horse, boy finds horse again...and the theme is, suprise suprise, 'war is bad, WW1 was the baddest, and Germans are really just like us'. it was moments like Amelie nearly revealing Joeys identity that were the best bits for me...or at least the most Dramatic bits.
    Creating a Drama like War Horse, and lots of other Dramas in modern times is often about, 'cor, look how they did that', Theatrical pyrotechnics which hide an often very empty space.
    I try to encourage the students to think of the audience as involved, and needing to be encouraged to care about what is in the story, rather than simply gawp at the cleaverness or fall asleep.
    Mind you examiners rarely care about the story as much as how the individuals are doing it, but if the group is committed to the content, i find the Drama is better.

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