Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Thursday 6th August

It seems that a lot of my life is mixed up with school theatre – a logical thing, seeing as I am a Drama teacher, I suppose.

When we were at school, all of us did house plays – both acting and directing. We never had a tradition of a rea ‘major production’ at the girls’ school, but Carl was involved in his school’s major. Then, of course, there were ‘Drama Club’ type excursions to the theatre. I still remember seeing ‘Evita’ for the first time for something like 50c (maybe not quite, but as near as dammit) and falling in love with the whole show, particularly the character of Che.

Since actually studying teaching, there have been years and years of major productions, Std 6 concerts, house plays and various other (often invented) occasions to either direct or oversee production. It’s just part of who I am.

Last night we went to the boys’ school’s major. There were some impressive performances and the play was enjoyable. The only thing that worries me is that ‘major’ has come to mean a dramatic production with 12 roles, 3 of which are girls.

For me, school theatre should be inclusive and large – giving experience, exposure and fun to almost as many as possible. It should be about generating a vibe that draws the school in and makes people understand the value of just being involved, or just sitting and enjoying.

I think, actually, that this characterises more than my approach to doing a production. It definitely is the ‘teacher thing’ in me, this desire to involve others and for them to learn from the experience, often in a variety of ways.

Maybe that’s why I was open about this cancer thing from the beginning. Partially, I suppose it was a form of coping mechanism – allowing me to talk about what was happening to me and to make sense of it. Partly, it was about me firmly believing that anyone close to me has the right to know if there is something wrong and to work through the process, rather than be presented with a fait accompli, hear about what has happened as an afterword, or have to find out some other way and then be smacked in the face by a whole reality at once, rather than have time to process what is going on.

Funnily enough, in retrospect; the whole intense part of the cancer journey (seeing as it is not over, but there were those months of operations, drains and chemo) was kind of like a production in its own way: a process that began with one situation and progressed through a series of steps (often taxing) to a final outcome, that was predicted form the beginning.

I am currently involved in two productions – a larger, scripted one and one we are devising. They both have in common that there was a ‘nothing’, but there will be a ‘something’ to put on display. I began the processes and I will drive them. There are demands and they are both time consuming, but both so rewarding.  In some ways, the cancer thing feels as though it was a similar process – backwards. There was a something thrust upon me, which had to be got rid of through a whole lot of steps and a whole lot of processes.

The journey is not over, but the intensity of the ‘production in reverse’ is over – and from it so much learning has taken place. And it has had a lasting effect on those of us most closely involved.


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