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Drama in the Redwoods

The audience gathers. They have been led through a creek and over a felled gum tree and find themselves sheltered under the giant redwoods at the base of Te Mata Peak. As a hush descends the performers take to the stage, a clearing between three redwood trees.

The audience is watching site-inspired drama pieces devised, developed and produced by our NCEA Drama students. The students developed this site-inspired theatre specifically for performing in the giant redwoods, using trees and fallen leaves as a set, and birdsong as sound effects.

What an amazing experience for the performers, the audience and members of the public innocently walking their dogs.

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These site-inspired performances were the accomplishment of a seven-week devised theatre process which started with a series of questions: What kind of relationship do people have with Te Mata Peak? What does it mean to me? What do people use it for? What is its history? What is its future? Is it important?

The NCEA Drama students found out everything they could about Te Mata Peak. This involved walking and visiting different areas of the peak, finding out about the history and researching the cultural importance of the site. They also heard from guest speakers about their relationship with the peak and what it means to them.

Once all the research had been gathered, the students then had to create their own devised drama pieces and perform them. This devised theatre piece could involve any aspect of the peak they had discovered or researched and was completely their own interpretation. The story they chose to tell could be about anything as long as it was inspired by what they had learnt about Te Mata Peak. The students worked on these pieces in class, structuring and refining them through use of drama conventions and elements.

Two of the groups made the decision that their pieces were more than site-inspired, they were site-specific and therefore chose to perform outdoors in the giant redwoods. And why not? I think the peak deserves to see what it inspires in the people who visit.

Mrs Emily Miller-Matchem, Teacher in Charge of Drama