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The show must go on! How Drama students have embraced digital for their final year performances

(dis)embodied by Charlotte Binger, Dottie Martin, Alicia Sharp, Paige Stevens and Isabella Wynn

Drama students at the University of Sussex are preparing for the fourth annual Drama Finalist Performance Festival this week – with a virtual twist. 

As the UK entered lockdown at the end of March, in-person rehearsals ground to a halt and students were faced with a new challenge - to reimagine their projects and prepare creative outputs which could be experienced online.  

The results, 11 highly innovative and contemplative audio and/or visual experiences, will be shared online from Thursday 7 May as part of the Finalist Performance Festival.  

Dr Jason Price, Head of Drama at the University of Sussex, said: “When it became clear that the pandemic was going to prevent our students from continuing to work on their projects under normal rehearsal conditions, my colleague Dr Sara Jane Bailes and I sat down to strategise ways to save the assessment.  

“Rather than modify the projects into written assignments or portfolios documenting ‘what could have been’, we asked our students - who are used to working within tightly set limitations - to reconceive their projects to take into account social distancing and remote working. We encouraged them to look for creative possibilities within their new circumstances. The brilliant work they have created shows the extent to which they embraced the challenge.” 

The performances range in topic, with some addressing the current situation. The projects include a digital and socially distanced ballet duet, an exploration of the objectification of the female leg in popular culture, an audio experience on ‘a flight to nowhere’ and a gallery of isolation experiences.  

Performing (dis)embodied, Charlotte Binger, Dottie Martin, Alicia Sharp, Paige Stevens and Isabella Wynn said: “As a group, we realised that continual communication and support would be vital, and so we began practically responding to daily tasks that we set each other. Whilst this began as a way to make sure we stayed engaged, this morphed into the foundations of the piece we will be presenting at the festival.  

“The digital shift also allowed us to engage in mediums that we previously wouldn't have, opening up a new set of creative possibilities. Whilst the task to create in isolation has not been easy, continuing to stay engaged and together in this time has been extremely rewarding - and to have a creative collaboration to show for it really is the best way to end our very unusual final term.” 

The digital festival is being hosted by the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, whose team provided digital and creative support to the students as they faced the challenge of rehearsing and performing within lockdown.  

Dr Price said: “The ACCA staff have been wonderful in supporting our students with the technical aspects of their projects.  

“Without the generosity of the ACCA teams, the festival would have been difficult to pull off.” 

To watch the finalists' performances, audiences can either log on from 1pm on Thursday 7 May and choose where to begin.

Alternatively, for a true festival feel, the Sussex Drama social media channels will be posting links to performances along a set schedule across three days. For this option, the Drama department can be found on Facebook @SussexDrama or on Instagram @Sussex_Drama_BA.  

To watch online at your own pace, and to check the list of performances, visit https://www.attenboroughcentre.com/events/3725/drama-finalists-performance-festival-2020-virtual-edition 

 


By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Thursday, 7 May 2020

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