Introduction to TSD
Theatre Studies and Drama (TSD) is a demanding yet rewarding ‘A’ Level subject aimed at students with a genuine interest in Theatre and Drama. The course is very different from the usual academic subjects and requires an open mind, a willingness to reflect and persevere, and an ability to think for oneself. Students need to conduct their own research and select material for monologues, duologues and group performances. Students also need to have a good level of spoken and written English and be able to work with initiative both as an individual and as part of a collaborative team.
Students study key texts in different genres and examine ways of approaching scripts from the point of view of a theatre maker. The theoretical side concerns aspects such as social, cultural and historical influences.
There are weekly practical workshops where the students explore the elements of drama, approaches to performance and different conventions and theatre styles. This includes areas such as mask and Commedia Dell’Arte, Physical Theatre, Experimental Theatre and the work of practitioners such as Brecht, Artaud, Boal and Stanislavski.
TSD is designed to be part of a balanced ‘A’ Level program and it is not a career-oriented training program. Many students have actually gone on to pursue film/theatre/performing arts at a higher level but the course offers openings to a wide range of careers.
The course emphasises the skills of independent, imaginative and lateral thinking. At the same time, the course demands and rewards teamwork, resilience, and problem-solving approaches to shared targets. These skills help prepare students for any career that requires effective communication, imagination, initiative and a cooperative mindset – all the skills that are currently in demand, both in the government and the private sectors (in areas such as law, media, sales, teaching, advertising and management).
The College makes available several facilities for TSD students. Classes are conducted in the air-conditioned Drama Studio Complex (almost an entire block dedicated to the subject) incorporating two black-box style performance spaces (that are also used for workshop sessions), a costume room and a resource/consultation room. There is also a bigger studio theatre (LT AVA) complete with sound and lighting equipment, as well as the state-of-the-art 800-seater VJC Performance Theatre.
The teachers and students are self-motivated, passionate, dedicated and fiercely demanding of themselves and each other.
The TSD Curriculum
Paper 1- World Theatre and Drama (40%)
A three hour written paper consisting of two parts:
1) Questions regarding an unseen text concerning the use of dramatic forms and concepts from the point of view of an actor, director and/or designer.
2) Questions on:
i. Western traditional theatre and drama (Restoration Comedy)
ii. Modern theatre and drama (Absurd)
Paper 2 – Critical Commentary (15%)
A critical analysis/evaluation of an individual performance project (2,500 words maximum)
Paper 3 – Practical (45%)
1) Individual Skill/Performance (15%)
2) Group performance
Groups of 5-8 students create an original piece of theatre or adapt an existing play text.
3) Individual contribution to the group performance (10%)
The final ‘A’ Level examination pieces are performed before and presented to an external examiner flown in from Cambridge specifically to evaluate the completed work. Apart from this, students present their work in public performance several times during their course.
Is it for me?
Unsure about whether TSD is the right choice? Here are some guidelines to put your mind at ease.
Do I need a theatre background?
No, but it helps if you have a strong interest or ‘passion’ for theatre and a willingness to ‘throw’ yourself into the work.
What if I can’t act?
That’s our job. We teach you to act. We believe that anyone can act if they have the will to do so. You must be brave and willing to try and empathise and ‘connect’ with the characters, their relationships and their situations. It takes patience, resilience and a willingness to re-think and refine your creative approach.
Must I act? Can I explore design aspects?
The practical aspect of the course focuses primarily on actor’s training but if you have prior experience or a definite passion and flair for an area such as masks or costume (and a strong willingness to conduct individual ‘outside’ research) there is a possibility of you specialising in this area for your individual skill.
Will I be expected to rehearse at the college until late in the evenings and during the weekends?
No, the TSD rehearsal spaces usually closes at 6p.m. each evening but there may be a need for extra rehearsals for group performances etc in the week or so before practical assessments. The ‘real’ practical examination usually takes place in July in year 2 and so the students do need to do some rehearsing during June. The individual preparation can be conducted at home or elsewhere in ones own time.
Isn’t TSD simply an excuse to ‘hang out’ with the other students and relax?
No, theatre-making actually involves a massive amount of discipline, resourcefulness and time-management (probably more so than any other subject). There is an obvious ‘community feeling’ but this comes as a result of uniting in the pursuit of creating good theatre not just for it’s own sake. Students need to be able to persevere and keep returning to the work to solve new problems and make it better and better. There are no quick, ready-made solutions for this type of work. It takes patience and reflective thinking, hence the students being rewarded for the process and not just the product.
Will I need to be a ‘dogsbody’ for the seniors?
No, not at all. The course is about self-responsibility, self-reliance, discipline and mutual respect. It’s about collaboration and team-work, not privileged seniority.
Do I need to visit the theatre to see productions?
You should WANT to visit the theatre if you plan to do this course. It helps foster aesthetic sensitivity and nurtures an analytical eye.
Where can I go after doing TSD?
Many of our graduates pursue theatre locally or abroad. Some pursue theatre degrees, arts management degrees, arts therapy degrees… but an equal number choose other career options such as law, architecture, mass communications. TSD is not just a course that develops your theatre potential. It helps develops your creative potential, your public speaking skills, your decision-making abilities. in short, it helps you prepare you for life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can TSD students do well in their other subjects?
Of course! In every batch of students, there are those who do less well than expected; there are also those who exceed expectations. TSD has its share of each. So does every other subject.
But TSD is a difficult subject to score in…
Yes, BUT a distinction in any Arts subject is difficult to achieve because you cannot memorise and regurgitate. In fact, TSD offers other ways to achieve, not only through writing essays but also through performing. Our grades tell us where we stand, but do not tell us what we can or cannot do. The vast majority of students who do well in TSD are students of normal ability and talent. If anything helps you get a distinction, it’s the love and passion for the subject.
Will TSD be useful for my future career?
Yes. TSD is probably the most useful ‘A’ Level you can take. It enhances skills that are applicable to any career. TSD students develop their skills of communication, imagination, the ability to take risks and to behave with confidence in front of others. They learn to analyse, reflect on their work and to rigorously improve it. They learn to work in groups, meet deadlines, problem solve and so much more.
Isn’t TSD more of a skills-oriented course than an academic subject?
No. Theatre Studies is a core ‘A’ level subject. Although the teaching methods are often not traditional (TSD students spend little time in lecture halls copying overhead transparencies), the work involved is rigorous and respected.
Is the curriculum too heavy?
No, the TSD syllabus may be a varied and stimulating one which demands constant application from students, but it is no more difficult than any other ‘A’ level subject.
But I don’t want to become an actor…
Well, most TSD students go into NUS Law or Mass Communications. Others are matriculating in arts or business courses at both local and overseas universities.
Is TSD recognised by prestigious overseas universities such as Oxbridge or the Ivy League?
Yes! As TSD students often have a different profile from most Singaporean students, overseas universities like Yale or Oxford are often eager to accept them.
How about scholarships? Do I stand a chance?
Certainly. Per capita, TSD students are the highest scholarship achievers in Victoria Junior College. Liana ’96 was awarded the much coveted Jardine Foundation scholarship to study in Trinity College, Oxford. A number of students have also won bond-free scholarships from US universities.
Isn’t TSD a course just for girls, softies, models and the artsy?
Not at all, TSD attracts all types of people and the students we have usually represents a good cross-section of the general JC population.
Do you have to be a ‘show-off’ or a temperamental ‘Prima Donna’ to do TSD?
Again, not at all, these ‘types’ of people exist in all walks of life but theatre people often tend to feel quite confident and assured in themselves so they do not ‘need’ to behave in that way. Some of the greatest theatre-makers are often the most un-assuming in everyday life.
If you have any questions about the Theatre Studies and Drama program at Victoria Junior College, and/or the aptitude tests and interviews please contact: