Necessary Contrasts – metacognition

Dr Vanessa Byrnes, at the NZ National Drama conference spoke about how important it was for her to recognise ‘necessary contrasts’ in her own creative practice. That it is ok for her to be someone who likes chaos but also likes order at the same time.

This really struck a chord with me, as I have always felt these ‘hypocrisies’ within my own method of working. I am, inherently, a messy person however I like to keep a track of my students grades in a meticulously colour coordinated excel spreadsheet. I love to create plays which are chaotic in nature and question order, yet I like to have a clear rehearsal schedule and process.

Whilst I was listening to her I started to think about my students and their devising/rehearsal processes. Are they aware of these contrasts and that they are not only ok, creatively but ‘necessary’. I have never asked my students to consider their own rehearsal practices, beyond creating a schedule and ensuring they have thought about the ratio of rehearsal/devising etc.

However this has made me reflect again on metacognition – students needing to understand what they are doing and why… thinking about their thought processes. This is something I have therefore brought into my teaching at year 11. They are in the middle of an intensive rehearsal process where stress levels are on the rise.

I asked my year 11 to write a list of their own ‘necessary contrasts’ for rehearsal and these are some of the examples:

Structure and chaos – In order to move a play on, you need structure to keep to a rehearsal schedule, to keep to the boundaries of assessment but you need chaos to allow for true creativity and risk taking. 

Knowledge and naievity (searching) – ‘You need to have facts before you can create fiction’, your piece must come from some truth but you shouldn’t think you have all the answers before you begin to devise or your piece will stay on one, stale level.

Play and discipline – You must have the courage to play, to improvise and have fun with the process but the discipline to shape your craft, to follow time constraints, budget constraints and think about your audience. 

Participating and Watching – You must participate and at times, wholeheartedly, however you should also take time to watch and not be so consumed with the project that you cant see what it actually is. 

This is a great tool for teaching learners ‘how to rehearse’ or how to get the most out of their creativity and I will be using it in all my year levels.



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