Pupils cast in the write roles

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Once you have found the right button, just go on pressing it for as long as teachers want. That would seem to be a good motto for arts education.

The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this week wrapped up the 15th year of Class Act, its collaboration with English and drama teachers in Lothian that is the flagship of its education programme.

It persuades a handful of young playwrights to become classroom assistants for a term in selected schools and coach Standard and Advanced Higher English pupils in the art of playwriting and Standard and Higher drama pupils for performances at the theatre.

Styling itself as "Scotland's new writing theatre", the Traverse takes pride in giving school pupils the same kind of support it offers the professionals who hone their scripts with the help of the director and actors in staged readings.

When the writers first arrive in the classrooms to tell the pupils that they are going to write drama texts for performance in the theatre, some frankly are disbelieving. However, given the right encouragement, they find characters who interest them - this year they range from murderous headteachers to love-sick classmates - and set about writing scripts.

Edinburgh English teachers Melissa Mathers and Emma Flatman, of Drummond Community High (who used the texts for the pupils' Higher grading), and Ian Patterson, of Gracemount High, particularly welcomed the refreshing angle Class Acts has brought to writing this year.

Although no one sees the programme as an apprenticeship to being a playwright, drama teachers Gail Ferguson of Bathgate Academy, Edinburgh, and Andy Wilson of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston, recognised the heightened awareness that the act of composition gives to understanding dramatic writing.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Traverse performed the 29 dramas written under the guidance and inspiration of Gregory Burke (whose play Gagarin Way won a Fringe First in 2001 before transferring to the National Theatre), Christopher Deans, Alan Wilkins and Isabel Wright.

In a parallel arts course, third year graphic communication pupils at Gracemount High and others at Bathgate Academy created theatre posters for the event in a workshop led by the Traverse's marketing manager, Andy Catlin. The design by Chris Granton, of Gracemount High, was chosen to advertise the performances and for the cover of the anthology of all the plays.

Brian Hayward Traverse Theatre, tel 0131 228 3223

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