To summarise my experience with the Teachers Go Global programme has been the hardest thing to write. To say the experience was life altering seems trite, but so true.
For most of my life, I have never really felt “at home”. This has extended to frequent moves, an extended list of places I don’t want to live, and a need to be near a certain hill. Finding a connection with a place has taken me a long time, and now that I have it, I did not expect to find another so quickly. One of the first things we experienced at the Globe Theatre in London was a welcoming to the space. The staff extended this beyond a mere handling of our needs, but made sure we all knew that any time we returned, we were welcome, as we were now family.
This centralised my whole experience with TGG, as it all centred around the tikanga of the Globe itself. Our director, Margo Gunn, who was a pure delight, referred to the Globe as “the friendly stage”. She was so right. Walking onto the stage for our rehearsal was like walking home, being in a space that felt immediately welcoming and wonderful. My goal in teaching theatre of all kinds has now become to re-create this performance feeling.
Being able to be part of the Globe audience, and be on the stage, Shakespeare makes even more sense to me. I have always found Shakespeare a friend, but seeing his works in the space they were intended for, makes him even more real for me. Asides aren’t asides, they are questions to the audience, a moment of real connection with the actor and audience.
Working with Margo Gunn was a highlight. She brought such patience, as well as determination. We learned so much about teaching Shakespeare, unpacking text and engaging students, as well as giving us time to co-construct our scene performance. Looking through the lens of “The Winter’s Tale” she also enlightened us on “Hamlet”, “MacBeth”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo and Juliet” as ways of approaching the text we were performing, as well as how to pass on the same skills to our students using the more common texts. She gave us such confidence in teaching Shakespeare with really young students. This I took on board massively, and now my Year 9 and 10 Drama classes are putting on a 45 min version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with a student assistant director, who is already making plans to direct a 5 minute scene of his own in the new year.
Glynn MacDonald, whom we only get a chance to work with thanks to Dawn Sanders (even Glynn is quick to say that working with SGCNZ is something she looks forward to, but only does because of her admiration and support for Dawn), was an absolute dynamo. We learned so much about ourselves in her session. My only hope would be to have more time with her, but I know she was very busy working with the cast of “Othello”, taking time from their final rehearsals to work with us. Her way of unpacking the Alexander technique was amazing, and has already been passed on in part to my senior students. They have begun using her descriptions of the elements to help describe their own way of thinking, and how it is different from their characters, and how it helps to shape the way they move and speak. Something so tiny, yet huge, that has altered the way I teach all my classes. My Year 13’s, whom I have worked with for almost 5 years, have already commented that this tiny teaching moment has changed the way they see and treat each other. Any method that can help creative people communicate is such a blessing, and I will be searching for more professional development in this field.
Every workshop we participated in, and all of our tutors, were simply amazing. From Giles, who suddenly made iambic pentametre something I am keen to write, to Will and Kat who opened our minds with the socio-historic background of the plays, to our voice coach who changed the way I stand. They all moved us to be better performers, better teachers, and better communicators every day. Standing in Stratford after the performance of “The Duchess of Malfi” and talking with the students who were all saying the same thing, “that actor is going to ruin his voice in the long run”… we had all taken our critical viewing of theatre to a new level, looking at the way people had been creating their sound, more than just how they used their voice.
On the students, this was another blessing. Being able to integrate with the student group for various activities was amazing. They became a family to us, and we to them. Having the chance to see them perform was awesome, as we knew the journey they had taken. I will never forget the moment we bounded on stage for our own performance, and there they were, literally running to lean on the stage to watch ours. This sharing, this manaakitanga of the Globe stage, reinforced everything I have learned from Rangimoana Taylor. He is so right about the least important person in the theatre being the actor. We perform for the audience, and sharing is a huge part of manaakitanga. If we are not gaining from the audience, and they are not gaining from the performance, the performance isn’t right. Selfish, or self indulgent, theatre is something to be avoided at all costs. The Globe never puts on a self-indulgent performance.
The YSC group were amazing. Being able to participate particularly in the London Scavenger Hunt with them, and be inspired by the way they don’t hold back on their enthusiasm, courage or creativity was such a wonderful day. And the days in Stratford and Oxford alongside them were some of the happiest days of my life thus far. To be reminded of what it was like to be young, and have a group of people with similar interests, and lofty goals, a constant reminder of what is, and should be, possible in our own lives. The TGG group was smaller, but no less diverse. We felt like best friends by the time we reached Hong Kong, and long lost family by the time we arrived in our rehearsal space for the first time.
This comes to the most salient point about the programme, the reinforcing that the SGCNZ planned events are the most important events of the school year. These are the only multi-school events that have more than competition at stake. My bugbear about Stage Challenge, Dance NZ Made, and now Show Quest, is that they reinforce a selfish message about winning. The competitions are all about hype, cheering, and self indulgent praise. This is not something that fits within my own values, nor those of our school. Our values, and the reason why I continue to work where I do, is because we value respect, empathy, integrity, determination and creativity. The very fact that even in the National festival over the long weekend, no student or teacher is focussed on “winning”. We are there to share, celebrate and tell stories that matter. And we don’t do it to take home trophies, or to make others feel bad for not “winning”, as everyone has put in the same efforts to be present.
The TGG programme has changed my life. I have another home, and a deeper love for Shakespeare. I am a more patient teacher, allowing my students to take even more control and lead the direction of their own learning. I have raised my expectations of what students are capable of, and I have a burning desire to get in to a local primary school and expose even younger students to Shakespeare. When I get back to London, I will visit my new home. And when I finish my Masters in Scriptwriting, I will be trying to formulate a PhD project involving new writing for a Globe Stage, with a New Zealand context, because the Globe team have not stopped learning about how the stage works, nor have they been bound by just texts from the Bard, new works appear frequently on that stage.
In short, my world outlook has altered, and I can never thank SGCNZ or Dawn Sanders enough for all the effort put in to create this programme. I will continue to be a “friend” of SGCNZ, and throwing my hand up to travel with future YSC groups, or pin posters on walls for festivals. It is a cause I believe in with every fibre of my being.