Last month, Drama students at The Stonehenge School were lucky enough to have a Zoom visit with ND Patron, actor Jessica Hynes. Head of Drama and ND Executive Committee member Steve Wood gives his school report below:
“Recently our school benefitted from a live Zoom meeting with professional actor and director Jessica Hynes. I decided to inform my year 10s about this exciting opportunity by introducing the character of ‘Hynes’ and we began to follow the key parts of Jessica’s life as she went into the performing arts industry. They started to question why they were going on this journey with the character and one students boldly guessed “because she is coming into school”, of course when I confirmed that they were correct there was some mild hysteria. It’s very interesting to be in the room when news like this is given, the students quite literally started to simmer with excitement. You could see a range of emotions across the cohort, anticipation, nervousness, happiness and pride.
When the day came, some students were growing increasingly nervous. The news of a national star who wanted to come and speak to them was simply overwhelming, it was as if there was a whole school production and they were about to go on stage for the very first time. This atmosphere was quite charming as it showed how much the students were valuing this opportunity. Upon entry to the Drama studio, the room went silent. One student said “who’s that? Oh that’s her!” Jessica was already on the big screen awaiting the students. In the brief moments when Jess could not hear nor see the students, they just looked to the screen, admiring as they found their seats. Perhaps this was due to them thinking she could hear and see them? Either way it is a very effective form of behaviour management!
The time then came for introductions, Jessica was incredibly warm and inclusive of all students. Jessica started by asking the students why Drama matters to them. There were some lovely answers, the kind you would expect I imagine. “It allows me to be creative”, “It is a safe place”, “It is a subject I enjoy”. The students had each prepared a question to ask Jessica and she very kindly answered them all! One of the most memorable questions asked was “I grew up in almost the same situation as you with my mum and sister, what advice would you give to someone who wants to be an actress?”. “At your age, I was ready to go to the streets! Not like that but I was eager to perform, join a theatre company”, the connection between Jess and the students on the day was magical to behold. It really gave a sense of pride and enthusiasm to them, both the teaching assistant and myself were discussing how polite and engaged the students were when they spoke to Jessica.
One of the most impactful moments of the meeting was when Jessica asked the students what they wanted to do when they are older. There was of course a lot of flattering with “actor” and “actress” comments but as students gained more confidence they opened up with “doctor, teacher, army officer, lighting designer, chef” and so on. It was inspiring for them to hear a professional actress say how important Drama was to those varying jobs. They felt comforted by hearing her comments and were incredibly grateful for the time she took out of her busy schedule to virtually come in to The Stonehenge School. This has been an experience that they will remember for a very long time!”