Welcome back to the second part of this series on skills in Drama. In part one we began by looking at the definitions of knowledge and skills and exploring the differences between them. In this article we are going to look at the skills that are important in the study of Drama.
The key to learning Drama and to make the process of learning work best, knowledge must come first. There is no argument against that. You cannot generate skills without first holding knowledge of what you are applying. This is because the skills are inherently linked to the knowledge that came first. In fact, subject specific skills are a form of knowledge called Procedural Knowledge.
Procedural knowledge refers to how learners express their knowledge through performing tasks. This could range from writing an exam to creating a performance. This knowledge is not about something being true or false, knowing or not knowing and can or cannot do. It is about how well you do something. It is about the quality and the effectiveness of our ability to use knowledge.
As with knowledge of Drama, there is a core set of skills that a Drama Student, or anyone practicing Theatre, might need to learn. I have used five broad headings with which to attempt to give some structure to these skills.
The concept and skills of interpreting a stimulus and developing ideas that can be used to create and tell a story. There are concepts and skills in storytelling, knowing how to construct a linear, non-linear or abstract story so that the audience are involved, interested and immersed in the action. There are skills to be taught in interpreting or developing characters, analysing them, their motivations and their backgrounds to help understand them. The deeper we understand the characters we play, the more we are be able to successfully portray them.
Creativity is another skill learnt in Drama. Creativity is the act of making new and imaginative ideas into reality. As a process it involves two things: thinking and then producing. The most important part is thinking. Interpreting. Creativity is pooling our prior knowledge along with the insight into life that prior experience has given us. Creativity is then using that combination and taking the risk to create something different, extraordinary, inspiring, and exciting. The more knowledge of drama the learner can draw from, the more creative they can become with that knowledge.
There are a tremendous number of key skills to be developed in performance. The ability to use your voice and movement to portray a character. The way you use the space around you on the stage and between you and other actors. The way you use levels, stage positions and blocking. The nuances of developing a character for performance. Understanding how to communicate your characters intentions to the audience. Physicalising emotion through movement, be that in natural or abstract form. Understanding the complex relationship between the actor and the audience.
There is also the skill of analysis. I’ve already mentioned how we analyse a character to find out about them. Analysis is finding out about something by breaking it down into elements, such as structure, language or social influences. In Drama we have a very subject specific use of analysis. We analyse characters to help us find knowledge about them, which we then combine with our knowledge of Drama to create and apply in a performance. We do the same with plays and with practitioners.
Evaluation is another skill leant in Drama. We are constantly rating both our application of Drama knowledge and the quality of that application. We go through this all the time. We go through it when we question our initial ideas for performance. We do this when developing the piece of Theatre. We question whether we are using the right Drama techniques. We argue whether what we are creating will communicate the right thing to the audience. We interrogate our character development, our interpretations and our acting.