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Acting teacher John Pritchard talks about teaching at Stagecoach and why drama is important.

December 10, 2021
Acting teacher John Pritchard talks about teaching at Stagecoach and why drama is important.

We recently interviewed John about his experience of being an acting and drama teacher at one of our Stagecoach schools. 

Acting Class

What do you teach?
I am an acting and drama teacher. My acting classes provide the skills needed to perform in musicals, plays - and occasionally films! I teach everything from ancient Greek Theatre to modern camera technique.
What does a typical lesson look like?
Well, a lot of fun. Comedy is at the centre of all I do and it shows in my students. We’re pretty much always laughing or smiling. (…Unless we’re in the middle of a very serious scene of course!)
A typical acting lesson starts with the students running into class, and we have a bit of a catch-up. I ask them to share some news and then share some fake news - and before you know it we’re creating stories and scenes and putting them on stage.

Drama class

Why is drama important?
It’s important to remember that drama has existed for as long as humanity has existed - in one form or another it’s a fundamental part of every civilization. Acting is also how we learn - babies copy and mimic the adults around them. If you want to show someone how to do something, or give a lost person direction, you’ll often act out your instructions. Drama is essentially communication… So to ask why is drama important is to ask why is communication important? Well, communication is important because without it we’d all be alone.
Mental health, loneliness, lockdowns .. all hot topics at the moment. How do you support students through difficulties?
During the lockdowns, we created digital showcases and end of term events to replace the performance opportunities that would have ordinarily been happening on stage.
As teachers, we got tons of feedback from parents saying that the weekly online stagecoach sessions were getting their kids through the lockdown. For some, it was the only time during the week that their children were back to being themselves.

Early Stages Acting
And now we’re out of lockdown, what do your students get out of your classes?
We have a wonderful educational framework that has been designed by educators as a step by step guide to teaching practical performance skills and techniques, and it’s catered for all the different ages from four to 18!
But performance skills aside, what the students really get out of the classes is the opportunity to be themselves. They learn to be part of a company of actors; they get to be silly and make mistakes, laugh at themselves, laugh at each other and then learn and grow. It’s a bit like Minecraft - but in real life!
Sounds very wholesome!
It is! I think we provide something that - unfortunately - isn’t being provided in mainstream education. 
What’s one of your best moments or memories?
One of my proudest moments as a director and a teacher was when my drama club put on a public performance at an elderly home. 
I was heading to meet the cast at home but on my way, there was an accident and I got stuck in awful traffic. I was going to be late… what was I going to do?! I had let the kids down. I felt awful.
… However, when I finally arrived my cast was calmly in costume and ready to perform. All the props were set and the stage was ready. The cast was in a circle and one of the older students was leading a warm-up game. They had used their initiative and done all of this without me. At that moment they didn’t seem like students - instead, they were a company of actors.
The performance was a great success and once the show was over (and the students had berated me for being late) we then spoke to the elderly residents which was a rewarding and educational experience for everyone. 

Acting Backstage
So are all your students super confident?
Not necessarily. Many are actually quite quiet and the acting lessons are an opportunity to grow in confidence. Of course, there are also many confident extraverted students and the acting lessons become an outlet for performance and energy. (I try to send everyone home exhausted). The great thing about drama is that it’s all just ‘more more more’ - we learn when to be quiet and we learn when to conserve energy. I put a huge emphasis on listening. 
What’s next?
Next term we have two exciting projects… our main school end of term musical will start rehearsing, so there will be auditions and rehearsals ready for the final event.
I will also start rehearsing my Drama Troupe play which we enter into a theatre festival (Welwyn Garden City Youth Drama Festival). The play is called ‘ME ME ME ME ME ME ME including a brief history of pineapples’… it is as nuts as it sounds, imagine Blade Runner meets Wes Anderson meets Gavin and Stacy. It will be fun.
The last two years we’ve come 3rd in the festival so I’m really hoping for 1st or 2nd this year!
Good luck! 

John Pritchard DipRSL is a Teacher, Writer and Artist. He teaches Drama and Acting at Stagecoach Bishop’s Stortford. He performs comedy in London and paints at home in Essex. John also worked with Stagecoach during the pandemic on the online learning platform stagecoachathome.

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