How to Ace HSC Drama

So, you’ve chosen HSC Drama. And you’re wise enough to know that despite what some people think, it’s not a “bludge subject”!

We’ve helped many students prepare monologues and group projects over the years, and we’ve identified some key strategies for nailing your performances and surviving the year. Amy Hume compiles all the best tips from teachers who’ve worked HSC Drama students at Viva Voice, including our new resident HSC Drama coach Shelley Casey.

HSC Drama gives you the chance to dive into all sorts of texts, characters and performance styles. You’ll be exposed to literature that artists have performed for centuries, learn about playwrights, actors, set designers, costume designers and filmmakers.

HSC Drama presents an opportunity for you to showcase your talent, and provide the foundations for a career in the Arts Industry.

It’s definitely not a ‘bludge subject’ – but you already knew that.

There’s a lot of work to do.

Don’t stress, we’ve got your back. 

1. For Individual Project performances, choose a monologue you can be interested in and inspired by for the better part of a year.

It’s all well and good to choose something you think will get you into OnStage or be a hit with the markers – but don’t forget, you have to work on this monologue for almost a year!

What’s most important is choosing something that will keep you interested and will inspire you to be creative and work hard for the HSC year – as well as allowing you to hone and showcase your skills.

If you are thinking of writing your piece, just remember that you are getting marked on your performance and not script writing skills. If you do need to add to your script – find novels, poems, lines from songs and even other plays that you can take text from (remember to document and reference everything and state where you got it from).
2. Learn your pieces early

A good way to test yourself is to not look at your script for a week and then see if you can remember it fluently – that is with no pause, no ums, no repetition of mix up of lines.

Learning your piece early also gives you freedom to begin working on blocking, staging and props.

The earlier you learn it, the more confidence you will have with it on the day.

3. For Group Project performances, work out the best way for your group to work from the get-go

Maybe it works best for your group to do lots of two-hour rehearsals, or a few full days; maybe recording your ideas in a Google Doc or on a Facebook group page will work best, or perhaps you’d prefer to have group brainstorming sessions on butcher’s paper; maybe you all sort out your own costumes and props or maybe you split all the jobs between your group.

Have a think about how you like to work, and have an open, honest conversation with your collaborators at the beginning of the process, and agree on how you’re going to approach this as a group. That way, you set the motions in place for a productive year.

You’re going to spend a lot of time together, so it’s important to build solid foundations for effective and efficient group work.
4. Try every idea on the floor

This approach works for both your Individual Piece and Group Project – get up and try every idea on the floor.

Sometimes we can get bogged down into brainstorming and we think that the idea has to be perfect before we try it – WRONG!

Every idea has potential but you need to explore it through play before you can dismiss it.

The idea may not be used straight away, but it could inspire ideas down the track.
5. If something isn’t working, let it go!

It’s hard to let go of ideas that we really like, but if it’s not working….. Let it go!

Try a different angle, a new scene or just leave that part of the work alone for a while. Sometimes taking a break from the scene or script is all you need.

It’s alright to play with the order of a monologue and change things around to make the script work in the context of a solo, stand alone scene. However, if a change you’ve made isn’t working, move on.

6. Write everything down in your log-books. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

Conversations with your GP members and drama teachers, thoughts you have when you’re on the train staring out the window, a snippet of a song you hear that sparks an idea or seems perfect for your performance – write it down. That way, you won’t forget any of those golden ideas and you’ll have a book full of creative inspiration.

It also means you won’t be scrabbling to fill up your logbook the night before your exam! Think of your logbook as a resource for you. Your future self will thank you for making such detailed notes and keeping a record of your learning process.

7. Practice in front of people as much as you can.

As well as being a great way to help you deal with any nerves or performance anxiety, putting your work in front of an audience allows you to see what their responses are – what’s working and what isn’t, what makes sense and what isn’t quite there yet. Remember, you may have worked on the piece for a year, but the markers only see it once. It’s important to receive feedback from different audiences along the way to check you’re coming across the way you imagine, and ensure you’re showing as much of your skill as possible.

8. ENJOY IT!

Doing a subject with a Major Work can be stressful – but try and think of it as an escape from the subjects that require you to do a LOT of reading and writing. This is your chance to do something fun, creative and collaborative. You can step into a different mindset, unleash your creativity and leave your frontal lobes behind! It can be energising, invigorating and refreshing.

So enjoy it!
And here’s a bonus tip… Don’t feel that you have to be funny.

A big mistake is thinking that you have to be funny. Online jokes and memes are only funny if you’ve seen it. Test your performance out on your parents, friends to make sure the jokes land because if they don’t laugh, the markers probably won’t either.

These tips are just the start of the specialised coaching we offer HSC Drama students.

Our awesome teachers are here to help prepare and guide you through HSC Drama with creativity, individuality and confidence.

We encourage you to get in touch if you’d like any help selecting a monologue, sharpening up your performance, or working on the voice of your character.