Theatre skills for so­cial self-de­vel­op­ment

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS - By ES­THER LAUAKI

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.

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