This paper explores the concept of the devised drama ensemble, specifically students in their final year of secondary school curriculum drama in New Zealand’s National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) programme. Ensembles are established quickly in this context; creative work is performed and assessed in short time frames. Drawing on Bogart and Landau’s praxis, ensemble building here is interrogated for its capacity to encourage polyphony and to bring participants closer together, mitigating the tyranny of affective distance between members in what might be seen as more hierarchical models of school-based devised work: sites of silence and control. Data from interviews with New Zealand drama lecturers, teachers, facilitators, creative directors and students will be discussed through a critical pedagogy lens, with ensemble viewed not as a status but as a process, and as a metaphor for creative social action education models through embodied rehearsals of fictional, civic agency.
Gaenor Stoate is a teaching fellow at the University of Waikato, lecturing in the Faculty of Education on secondary drama curriculum papers and also in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where she teaches undergraduate theatre papers. More than twenty years of experience in secondary school drama classrooms and spaces of inquiry -in the UK and Aotearoa New Zealand- has sustained Gaenor’s interest in Drama and Theatre for Social Development. Never far away from either a learning space or a performance space, Gaenor participates in a range of theatre and drama projects in Hamilton and New Plymouth, in addition to her work as a curriculum consultant in Drama and English departments in secondary schools. Gaenor is in her second year of a creative practice PhD at the University of Waikato, exploring the creative, transformative social action aspects of the ensemble in devised work.