Theatre skills for social self-development
With young children there is bound to be some drama to deal with from time-to-time, but a school in Whitby looks to turn that into a tool for life-long learning.
Helen O’Grady Drama Academy has been teaching youngsters across Wellington the arts for 12 years and principal manager Denise Wakem has been working with local kids on building their confidence. Whitby’s academy now has a new youth theatre class which is an advanced programme for 12to 18 year-olds.
Ms O’Grady started the academy in 1979, in Perth, Western Australia, providing children with personal development through drama classes. It became her life’s work when she noted the benefits of social confidence and higher self-esteem from drama exercises.
‘‘I adore this work, the focus of the academy is to provide a selfdevelopment programme that gives children language skills and confidence to steer themselves towards success in their futures,’’ Ms Wakem says.
‘‘We always say we’re not here to produce budding actors – it’s about giving kids strong lifeskills, good communication skills, and creative ways to articulate.’’
Ms Wakem also runs classes in Khandallah and Lower Hutt during the week.
A typical session begins with roleplaying exercises and extends into voice, movement, storytelling, script work and improvisation tasks.
‘‘The curriculum is designed to stimulate language development. The children learn speaking skills including volume control and expression; present- ation skills, and how to handle competition and interpersonal relationships with their peers. It helps them to be able to stand up and speak confidently in front of their friends and their teachers and not be shy,’’ she says.
Ms Wakem has 20 years experience and is an accomplished stage performer and classical singer.
‘‘It’s really good for the shy children because we can bring them out a bit more . . . We do have a lot of budding actors in the classes. Those aspects can be developed too because we can give them more challenges.’’
Helen O’Grady Academy started a pre-school programme, trialled last year with ‘‘amazing’’ results, she says.
For more information contact Ms Wakem on phildeese@xtra. co.nz or 388 9710.
Dramatic expression: Children at Helen O’Grady Drama Academy practice expressing their emotions without using words. The academy has branches in Whitby, Lower Hutt and Khandallah.