Modern-Day Witch-Hunts Drama Ensemble Topic

I have decided this year to give my current Year 12 drama students the topic of modern-day witch-hunts as the basis of their first major assessment piece.

This ensemble performance will be in small or medium-sized groups and completely researched, written and directed by the students themselves. Normally, performances last between 20 and 40 minutes duration.

The prescribed performance style is non-naturalism (non-realism) with aspects of epic theatre and its conventions, as popularised by German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht.

Various modern-day witch-hunts are listed in the task and groups are to choose one of these witch-hunts as the basis of their student-driven performance. The full task is below with a pdf version at the end of the post. If you are a drama or theatre teacher yourself, feel free to download it and adapt it for use with your own students, or use it as is.

Year 12 Drama Ensemble Performance

THE MODERN-DAY WITCH-HUNT

Definitions (various sources)

A campaign directed against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular views.

A campaign of persecution launched on the pretext of investigating activities subversive to the state and/or community.

An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass or undermine those with differing views.

An intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion, dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

The act of seeking and persecuting any perceived enemy, particularly when the search is conducted using extreme measures and with little regard to actual guilt or innocence.

Modern-day witch-hunts

Your group is to select one of the following modern-day witch-hunts to use as the basis of your ensemble performance. Investigate the witch-hunt that occurred and dramatise the characters and events surrounding it.

  • Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
  • Muslims in America post 9/11
  • David Hicks and Guantanamo Bay
  • Climate change skeptics
  • Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese elections
  • Illegal aliens in the US
  • Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses

Performance Style

Non-naturalism with aspects of epic theatre.

Dramatic Elements

Language, symbol, space.

Theatrical Conventions

Transformation of place, transformation of character, transformation of object, disjointed time sequences (flash-forwards and flashbacks), plus various epic theatre conventions.

The Modern Day Witch Hunt Drama Ensemble Structure (pdf)

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1 Response

  1. After giving the above topic of modern-day witch-hunts to my Year 12 class of 21 students in the past two days, things have been a little tense! Understandably it takes some time for this many students to organise groups of 3-6 people, but for a while there it was looking a bit like an episode of the reality TV series Survivor, with some students in two alliances, while others were switching back and forth. After five groups were arranged it then took another lesson to organise who would choose which topic, all the while ensuring no topic was repeated. Normally, I would give the same topic to the entire class, but with such a large class and a topic that allowed for multiple examples of the same concept, I didn’t want any repeats. The chosen topics by the students were “Muslims in America post 9/11″, “David Hicks (Australian) and Guantanamo Bay”, “Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese elections”, “illegal aliens in the US”, and “Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses”. When the students perform them in early June, we will perform the topics over two nights in rough chronological order. With two groups of three, one of four, one of five and another group comprising six students, these dramas will likely be between 25 and 45 minutes each. Topics that did not get a guernsey were “Julian Assange (another Australian) and WikiLeaks” (a surprise to me), and “climate change skeptics”. I reminded my students that this long process was not (as it appeared to several) dark days for our senior drama class. If they didn’t love drama so much and care so greatly for their grades, they would not have taken the group-creation and topic-selection processes so seriously. It has all been a very positive experience and as teacher, I’m pretty confident they like the topic I gave them for their group ensembles, especially when I saw at one point three groups fighting to obtain the same topic. One student summed it up on the way out of the classroom at the end of the lesson when she said “I only wish I had filmed all of this!”

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