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Student led success from Princes Hill Primary’s Theatre Company.

Inspired by the vision of one student, Princes Hill Primary School achieved a remarkable feat: creating a student-led theatre company and presenting a production to the wider school community.

Following a request from a Year 6 student to produce and direct a performance of the musical, Alice in Wonderland with a cast comprising students from years 3-6, theatre departments across the Year 5/6 learning neighbourhood were established – Marketing and Promotion, Set Design, Costume Design, Performance, and a Documentation group to record the learning journey.

From establishing budgets and ticket pricing, through to costumes and sets designed and made by students, the learning journey culminated in performances which dazzled audiences over two nights, with more than 750 people attending each show.

School principal, Esme Capp, stated at the opening of both performances: I found several elements of the Theatre Company inquiry project ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspirational – the fact that it was based on a student led initiative; it was a collaboration between students, staff, parents and expert mentors and it enabled children to excel in so many different ways based on their personal challenges.

Education consultant, Kath Murdoch, who attended the performance, noted:  What was most powerful was the way teachers genuinely handed responsibility to the students. That they owned their learning – and owned the product – was so obvious and so powerful. Lots of people talk about this, fewer people do it.

Setting up an authentic experience through a theatre company provided rich possibilities to learn about how a theatre company works but, more importantly, how the different components of a system interrelate, and how each contributes to a project’s goals and success. As Tim Aris, 5/6 teacher and mentor to student director, Maggie Orr, said: We’re all on the same train heading in the same direction.

And what did Maggie think?

I had a vision for the show and the theatre company helped it come true.

Maggie, having completed school and, studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, returned to Princes Hill and kindly shared her recollections and learning from this powerful Inquiry project.