So you’ve made it through a good chunk of the year which has seen you direct, act and devise. You have developed these skills individually and sometimes at the same time. What could be next? Now that you can use instruction and direct your classmates in a show, now that you can pick a character and act out a series of techniques and elements. You even have devised a fresh piece of theatre from scratch. It’s now time to dissect, unpack and look at Drama performances under a microscope. You will be looking at two externals for your NCEA Drama Level 2 journey. First up you will need to fully understand a specific theatre form, which will see you learning the unique conventions that make up the components of the theatre form. Next, you will address and outline techniques, elements and conventions of a performance that you have seen during the year.

What is going to put you in good stead while navigating your second year of NCEA Drama? One word: terminology. If you have phrases and concepts under your belt, like elements, conventions, and techniques up your sleeve, you will be well on your way to understanding a great deal of the drama curriculum. In the same way that English answers are always built around justifications and interpretation over particular answers in mind, Drama too is very similar.  You need to back up your claims well, but largely you will be convincing the examiner of your argument with dense examples and sound application to theory. If you're aiming for that all-important excellence you will be needing to showcase perceptiveness in your answers.

If you are wanting some help with your Drama Internals and what to expect then check out this blog here. Maybe you are more nervous about exams then read on.. All the same, if you are wanting to brush up or learn key drama terms, you can see the revision here. For a yearly overview, you can get clued up here.

If you are wanting some insight into how drama can help you in your career check this blog out.

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 (AS91219)  Unpacking Elements, Techniques and Conventions 

 Elements:

 For starters during the year you would have seen at least two live performances in the year, this will be what you will be referencing in this exam, as well as your unique choices in your personal drama performance during the year. Let’s unpack an excellence answer from 2018, to fully understand this achievement standard. The student performed as ‘Puck’ in a modern type rendition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The show was called Dream On by Sarah Delalwuty. In question one, it’s asked to describe a moment of tension that occurred in their own performance.  Let’s dive into what the student has examined, shall we? The moment was identified as being when Puck put the Love juice on the wrong people, resulting in a different reaction than what puck was expecting. Oberon insists that Puck fix the situation immediately by putting the juice on the correct people. Tension is utilized when the unlikely couples all ensue chaos while some dote on each other and some  repulsed by the other. Oberon looks on at Puck in disbelief and is upset that such a mistake could have been made. This tension is established with gestures and facial expressions and it is clear that there is upset in the air that is building.

Drama Elements really help bring a performance to life

Techniques:

Later, in the next question it was asked: how were drama techniques used to show the character's emotional reactions? The student mentions that Puck used their body to address their embarrassment while looking on at the lovers interacting. Puck is seen burrowing their head in the bush as this exchange happens and it is very clear from this movement how Puck feels utterly uncomfortable. When struct by Oberon’s spell In the play, the Body technique was used when Puck appeared to hunch over and crumple up their shoulders.  When it was realised by Oberon that Puck had messed up the lover's spell, Oberon yelled and made a scene. In response Puck quivered and closed their eyes in utter fear and shock. What did this show about tension as a concept? It invited us into the concept that tension can bring out the power and weakness in people. The audience witnessed a very strong emotional reaction in Puck and this further illustrates just how much his weaknesses were brought out and put on display. Instead of being his mischievous self, the tension forced Puck to change their behavior. This shows that with enough tension, characters and people can be propelled into significant change. Tension can put us out of our comfort zone and it certainly made Puck motivated to try and fix the love potion mess up. Puck was very happy to watch the chaos, but as the tension unravelled with Oberon’s reaction there was a pivot and distinct shift of behaviour.

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Technologies

The next question asks to unpack either a song, a prop or a sound. The student here picked the prop, where obviously they chose the love potion bottle.  In the play Puck treated the Love Potion bottle like a toy and was very cavalier about what it could do, though they were excited by its power. Before Puck found Lysander, they were running around the stage completely carelessly, with very little regard for how important the love potion bottle was.  Props can be powerful tools and can highlight the behaviour of characters that use them by drawing attention to key ideas and themes.

(AS91215) Theater Form

In a 2018 exam exemplar the student demonstrates a high degree of perceptiveness in their answers. Let’s uncover what was explained and examined together. In their exam, the student has chosen to examine Feminist Theatre, with the modern adaption of Hamlet being ‘Ophelia Thinks Harder’ by Jean Betts.

Drama theater forms Characteristics

In the 2018 exemplar, it was asked what made the character typical of the form or period? So naturally, they chose Ophelia to deconstruct. During the time that Feminist theatre came to light in 1970s and 1980s woman were still considered to be socially and economically inferior to men, who were more career centred and typically the higher tier earner of a family. Because of this, the student explains that women were more likely to be wronged against in matters like body autonomy, spousal rape and abuse. Ophelia has experienced all of these. Interestingly and the student quotes this, Shakespeare was said to ‘understand human nature so well and yet he wrote his female characters so poorly’. That’s why adapting and reshaping the characteristics of Ophelia is a worthy pursuit for Jean Bett to tackle.

Theatre forms help govern the drama techniques and elements

Next, the exam asks us to explain how the character was evident in society at the time. In the 2018 exemplar. With the backdrop of New Zealand, Bett showcases how the country was very patriarchal through characters.  In this play, Hamlet told Ophelia that she had sinned because he was made to have fallen in love with her. The student quotes the play when Ophelia says “Beat me for my sins, beat me for my viciousness” to her maid. In a way, this shows just how susceptible women were to quickly take the word of a man to heart, even if it wasn’t justified. Bett’s used her adaptation of Ophelia to challenge the “2000-year-old belief that man comes before the woman”. In this interpretation, Ophelia ended up finding her own female power and overcame the tumultuous relationship with Hamlet.

Technologies

In this exam, you needed to unpack why a certain technology showed an important moment in the play you’ve studied. In the 2018 exemplar the student chose to examine costume as a technology. Bett utilised the patriarchal way of viewing women from the time by depicting the woman in dichotomies. They were either virginal or sophisticated and raunchy. Ophelia was the bridge between the two worlds. For humour, there was a prop technology used in the form of a Virgin Mary being present throughout the performance.  This was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek reference, visually of who Ophelia aimed to be aspiring like. Ironic in the sense that she ended up breaking free of this harmful stereotype and instead, opted for a more healthy self-image.

Lighting is a technology that can really bring to life a show

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