Women of Courage

Women of Courage

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Women of Courage


In Drama we have been studying 'women of courage'. The first woman we
studied was Joan of Arc. We used a variety of techniques starting with
a non-naturalistic drama of Saint Joan hearing voices in a dream. This
helped me to understand what she would have been told and seen in the
dream, of how the angels told her what she had to do with her life. It
made me realise how important the dream was and how it had a massive
impact on her life. Next was scripted acting of Dunois being persuaded
to work with Joan as a fellow officer. It showed me how Joan wanted to
work as a fellow officer and all the passion she had towards it. It
also showed me that in her time people, especially men, where not
comfortable working with women, even more so in the army, fighting.
Thirdly, we did an improvisation with narration, including a frozen
picture and thought tap, of the attack on St Tourelles. When we did
this piece, it showed me how much passion and commitment Joan had for
fighting for her country. It helped me to understand what Joan, other
French soldiers and British soldiers would be thinking and how they
would have felt in that situation. It also showed me how Joan was a
strong leader. When she put her all into fighting, even though she was
injured, it put new energy into her men, leading them on to take Les
Tourelles. The last piece we did for Joan was a frozen picture and
thought tap including the whole class, of Joan being burnt for heresy.
This showed me the different opinions of the people of that time, how
some people would have been against the burning, while most people
for, and the different reasons why. It also showed me how Joan would
have felt and whether she thought she was a success or not.

We then started work on Edith Cavell starting with pair work of Edith
hearing the news of the attack on Brussels, her home town.

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This helped
me to understand what Edith and her mother would have been feeling. It
helped me see what was expected of her and how hard it was for her to
leave her mother behind if she went to be a nurse. The second task was
forum theatre with the whole class, changing between the characters of
Edith and her mother discussing whether Edith should go home to help
or not. This helped me further to understand the emotions running
through both of them in this time and also showed me lots of reasons
for and against Edith going home. The third task was in pairs of Edith
being visited by the Princess. This showed me the Princess's passion
to help the allied soldiers and the confidence she had to go to a
stranger's house and ask Edith to risk her life to help. It also
showed me Edith's bravery to agree to help the princess even though
she was a Red Cross nurse and wasn't allowed to take sides. She was
brave enough to not follow the traditional roles of society, but her
brain and her heart. For task four, we did a thought tunnel through
the whole class, everyone being villagers from the town where Edith
lived. This helped show me how in those days everyone would have
different opinions on what Edith was doing, changed constantly by
gossip. It showed me how no one knew what was happening and the power
of gossip. Next, we did a thought tap and tableau of Edith's arrest.
The thought tap made us understand more about how the character would
have felt in that situation. It really made me think about how I would
have felt if I was that person. The tableau made me think of who would
be in the hospital at a time like this and where they would be
positioned, whether they would jump to save a person they love or hide
themselves. The last task we did in pairs was of Edith's meeting with
a chaplain before she was killed. This helped me understand how she
was feeling before she was killed, how she was unafraid and knew she
had helped saved peoples lives.

The last woman we did was Halina Birenbaum. The first three tasks of;
Halina and her family hiding in an underground bunker, soldiers
breaking down the doors, and the families on their journey to the
camp, were spontaneous improvisations. They helped me to feel what
Halina and her family would have felt as I had no time to think of
what to act, but only to react as I would if I was in that situation.
They helped me understand the fear that would be running through
Halina and her family and to see what they would be thinking and doing
at that time. The fourth task of Halek being beaten helped me to
understand first, how fierce and aggressive the German soldiers were
by beating Halek for no reason. Second, how tough the camp was to
everyone; how they had to be machines e.g. sleep badly, eat very
little and work hard. Thirdly, how emotional it was staying in the
camps; not being able to do anything but what the capo's say, without
being hit or killed. The fifth, sixth and seventh tasks were about
their experience with the gas chamber. They were all spontaneous
improvisations with the whole class taking part. This helped show me
how scared everyone would be in that situation, how the atmosphere
would be a mixture of fear and grief, of no one knowing what was going
to happen, but everyone suspecting something bad. It showed me what
terrifying experiences that Halina had to go through. The last task
was in large groups, when Halina saved Hala's life during the
selection. It was a narration with a flash back. It showed me how
brave Halina was to stick up to the aggressive capo guards, arguing to
stay with Hala, against the people who chose whether she lived or
died. It showed me the strong passion she had for Hala as a sister and
the courage that brought.


From the workshops we did, I learnt that courage can come in many
different ways. All three women had courage and all three were in
different situations, had different backgrounds, and were of different
ages, but all had a passion for something which they stood up for.
Joan of Arc became commander of the army, and in her time it was
unusual for a woman to have a job over a man, let alone fight. Edith
helped allied soldiers escape from Brussels, which was against the
people ruling her country, eventually getting her shot. Halina, a
child, saved her sister in law by sticking up to the capo during a
selection. All of the women broke from the traditional roles of
society to show courage. I think I managed to show the period the
women came from by thinking about the type of language to use, for
example, by not using shortened words; children instead of kids. I
used more formal gestures, like the women would have had, rather than
the more casual gestures of nowadays. Personally, I thought I was most
successful in the improvisations we could practise before hand as I
had time to think of how to act and put my ideas forward, so I had
more control than if it was spontaneous. The most effective piece of
drama I think was Natalie Chambers' group for the first task of Joan,
her dream. Although there could have been improvements, the idea was
very clever and exactly like a dream is. Everywhere Joan went, someone
was standing in front of her, telling her what she had to do, like she
couldn't get away from them. It had quite an eerie and scary effect on
the audience. Most of the things I contributed towards the tasks
affected the atmosphere of the scene; for example, in the first task I
came up with the idea of saying the last word of the previous person's
line, making it sound unnatural and muddled like a dream, also the
idea of standing at different heights. For the first task for Edith
Cavell, we came up with an extra role of the radio, as there were
three of us instead of in a pair and I helped to decide on what she
should say and in what tone a radio presenter would speak in those
times. I helped create an anxious atmosphere by pacing around in a
worried manner. For the last task we did for Halina Birenbaum, I
helped set the characters out so that everyone could be seen from the
audience, as people had to stand at different angles making this
harder to do. I also helped the people in my group to work out what
they would say and when, so that it made sense to the narration.
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