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Tuesdays @ the theatre | Teachers practise the drama they teach

Published:Monday | September 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
From left: Paula Shaw, lead choreographer, Damion Radcliffe, ‘Anancy Chaptaz’ creator and director of the series, and Sabrena McDonald (writer, composer and ‘Tella’) .
Jheanelle Saunders (left) and Damion Radcliffe during rehearsal at Campion College, where Radcliffe also teaches drama.

Teaching practice is part and parcel of the potential educator's training process. However, while every teacher is in effect making a presentation every time they step into a classroom and face the students, teachers involved in drama finds themselves literally on stage before their pupils at school - and, sometimes, outside of the classroom.

Damion Radcliffe, artistic director of the Independent Actors Movement and a drama teacher at Campion College, is one of the many persons in Jamaica engaged in drama at the academic and practitioner levels. "You have teachers who are on or backstage in various capacities," he said, identifying among those roles scriptwriter, director, producer, lighting and sound. While that flexibility may be taken for granted, it is embedded in the training process. "Most of us come out of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. We understand there are a number of roles we can play - teacher as counsellor, teacher as director, teacher as actor, etc. It just speaks to the variety that the art form permits the teacher, and the opportunity to be versatile," he said.

Among the Independent Actors Movement's output is the multiple award-winning Anancy Chaptaz series. Radcliffe has also prepared his students for events such as the Schools Drama Festival, and Campion topped the 2015 JN Shakespeare Schools' Championship with a Jamaican take on Macbeth. He says there is a "big difference" in guiding a cast comprised of students he has already interacted with as a teacher, and persons he is unfamiliar with. In the former situation, he would already now the student's strengths (although he points out that a good student in the classroom may not be as good on stage). "That suggests a level of comfort," he said about knowing the cast members as students beforehand. On the other hand, "there is the challenge of dealing with a fresh crop of budding actors. But you look forward to that challenge".

Not to be ignored is the possibility of familiarity of another kind - the one that breeds lack of cooperation, as a student may not take the teacher as seriously as they should outside of the strict classroom setting. Still, Radcliffe says that there is definitely respect when the student sees that the teacher can practise what they are teaching. What is more is the desire to emulate.

"You get respect and they think they can do it, too. You inspire them to be like you," said Radcliffe.