Here's a surefire curtain-raiser to the year that should warm the cockles of drama, history, science teachers, feminists of all curricular persuasions and, last but not least, all common-or-garden pupils who revel in bygone gore.
A one-off workshop for schools and colleges on Victorian Medicine and Surgery takes place tomorrow, September 14, at the Holborn Centre for Performing Arts. Led by Sue Emmy Jennings as an introduction to her play about Britain's first woman surgeon, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, it will involve participants in such delights as dissecting watermelons and stitching up torn bananas. Jennings, who is artistic director of Rowan Theatre Company as well as professor of drama and theatre at the University of Ulster, will also acquaint the assembled throng with glimpses of what it was like to practise surgery with no anaesthetics, overflowing drains and rats scurrying around the operating table. Jennings' play, My Dear Emily, can be seen at the Duke of Cambridge Theatre until September 29. To book for the workshop, ring the Holborn Centre on 0171 405 5334. Tickets for the play can be booked on 0171 485 5128.
u The National Student Theatre Company, in association with the University of Warwick, has toured its acclaimed production of Joshua Sobol's musical Ghetto, along with specially devised workshops, to schools in Warwickshire, Surrey and London. Set in the Vilna ghetto, in which Lithuanian Jews were forced to live by the Nazis before they were deported to extermination camps, Ghetto focuses on a theatre company which flourishes in the face of deprivation and degradation. The production won a commendation at the National Student Drama Festival and went on to a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Following this regional workshop-performance tour, the National Student Theatre Company will be performing the play at the London Pleasance on October 2 to 5. To book for public performances, ring the box office on 0171 609 1800 or 420 0000.
u Strathcona, Europe's leading learning disabled professional theatre company, is running a unique theatre training programme for people with learning disabilities. Twelve places are being offered to students on the seven-week course beginning October 28. Tuition is being provided by Strathcona's core company of eight actors along with top-flight guest tutors, including actress Maria Friedman, director Ann Mitchell, playwright Claire Luckham and choreographer Nigel Charnock. This pilot training programme is being funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Kings Fund and Mencap City Foundation and takes place at the College of North West London. For further details and application forms, contact Strathcona Theatre Company on 0171 403 9316.
u John Godber's Happy Families runs at the Palace Theatre Watford until September 28. A comedy that should appeal to all young people growing up as well as everyone else who has ever grown up surrounded by peculiar family members - and who hasn't? - it could well lighten things up momentarily at the beginning of your autumn term. To book, ring the box office on 01923 225671.
* And to brighten things up for the little ones, the Little Angel Theatre in north London is running a number of puppet productions for children aged eight and under. Webs, Witches and the Spider Queen by Deborah Nash, The Ugly Duckling adapted by Violet Philpott, and Go Noah Go!, the flood story transported to the Caribbean by John Agard, run in rep with a season of visiting companies' productions. For a full programme and booking details, ring 0171 226 1787.