ISTA presents...

Dubai (2) Studio - Theatre making and creative learning in middle school drama

May 9 - May 10, 2020


Middle school drama teachers… “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” – Theatre making and creative learning in middle school drama.

Workshop description

Teaching MS drama is a weird mixture of savoury and spicy ingredients. There are extraordinarily creative, exuberant students next to listless, lethargic lost ones. There will be students who want to be there all the time and students who want the floor to swallow them up rather than step inside the drama studio. There may be externally enforced assessment criteria that have very little to do with the art of collectively making theatre together. Bridging the gap and involving everyone in a process of self discovery that is beneficial to the group often feels like walking blindfold through a minefield. In this workshop, theatre making and creative learning is placed at the centre without resorting to tests, tick boxes and manufactured criteria for assessment. This approach liberates, enthuses and engages teachers and students alike.

Target audience

Middle school drama and theatre teachers.

Learning outcomes

– To define and commit to a creative classroom process.
– To appreciate collaborative and less collaborative actions and discuss their possible causes.
– To recognise collaborative and less collaborative dialogue.
– To investigate what collaborative leadership in a creative process entails.
– To go down a rabbit hole of curiosity.
– To sense synapses trying to make contact with one another.
– To value laughter.
– To investigate context, concept and how they relate to curriculum.
– To discover the unexpected through play and accident.
– To care more about relationships.
– To learn to sense open and closed mindsets.

How this workshop will aid curriculum delivery

Truly organic, creative integrated curricula grow and morph continuously. Outcomes fixed in stone are replaced in this workshop with an approach that honours learning as a lifelong pursuit, a process led by curiosity; delightful and fascinating. It is challenging to gauge with objective accuracy just how well something has been taught; becoming aware of the quality and ease with which we and our students learn, and the delight we and they take in the process should be our criteria for assessment.
In this series of workshops, teachers will develop strategies to work more collaboratively with their students and with one another. We will recognise and value creativity, sense what learning feels like and embark on several possible learning journeys. The challenge for all of us is to revisit the lifelong capacity for learning we had as infants without goals, comparisons to others or external standards.

Session outline

Session #1: Establishing enthusiastic environments
Ensemble building, caring about collaboration, behaviours, observing versus assuming, agreements, the curiosity factor.

Session #2: The tools of the trade and how to monitor their progress meaningfully
Voice, body, creative brain, society and sustainability.

Session #3: Keeping our cultures and histories relevant
Creating story, collecting story, transforming story.

Session #4: Drama at the heart
An integrated cross-curricular approach to learning.

Session #5: From the madness of masks to some kind of method
Devising from 5 points, where and how to start generating original work.

Session #6: Darkness revealed, spotlight on
Examining how drama and theatre can enable our communities to live a little more fully and positively enrich our varied journeys through life.

Session #7: Over to you
The floor is open for you to collect ideas and share ongoing practice, to network, discuss and ask questions.

About your workshop leader

Mhairi MacInnes
I have taught drama, theatre, music and creativity for 30 years in primary, middle and high schools and I now teach adults Awareness through Movement ® in an adult learning centre in Vienna.

I learned about middle school drama when I was asked to teach it in Warsaw, where the seeds of postdramatic theatre had produced extraordinary results. I probably did it very differently to what had been expected, although there was no curriculum given to me, no expected outcomes, no assessment criteria written, no prior teacher. I remember standing in front of a group of students wondering if I had the confidence to play the game I had in my head, whether they would follow, whether they would respond at all. There was a moment of hesitation and I plunged in. What the heck I thought, what do I stand to lose?! There was a lot of trial and error in the early days, disasters, doing it badly, refusing to compromise on what I believed was essential creative learning for MS students and often battling to preserve time and the freedom to explore in the classroom; but I never let go of the process I had discovered. I found it fascinating to observe the changes going on in the students. I watched how their postures changed over time, how much more open and accepting they became, how much more articulate and generous, informed and curious about life. This is the kind of deep learning that can happen in a drama class, aside from all the other objectives and descriptors that float around us like phantoms…

Event coordinator

Keriann O’Rourke


Dubai American Academy

Important information

The workshop begins at 9:00am on Friday 8th May 2020.
The workshop finishes at 3:00pm on Saturday 9th May 2020.

Registration is now open
Registration closes 24th April 2020.

Please note:
Places are limited, so please register early.

Participants should plan to attend the workshop in its entirety.
If travelling from outside the host city, please organise travel accordingly.


Registration fees

Teachers from member schools – GBP £350.
Teachers from non-member schools – GBP £385.

ISTA artists – GBP £315.

Please note
Registration fees include lunches and tea/coffee breaks daily.

Travel and visas


Teachers attending will be responsible for organising their own travel, ensuring they can attend the Studio in full.

ISTA artists
Your event coordinator will confirm final travel plans/dates with you.
Artist travel plans are due by 27th March 2020.
ISTA artists are responsible for booking their own flights to Dubai and will use our travel agency for this. Workshop leaders will be activated 12 weeks prior to the Studio and your EC will talk you through the process for booking flights at the time of activation.
Artists are also responsible for ensuring they have the necessary visa to enter the United Arab Emirates.

Accommodation and meals

Accommodation for participants
ISTA will suggest a hotel close to the venue and teachers will be asked to make their own booking.
Teachers living in Dubai will travel daily.

Meals for participants
For teachers travelling daily:
Breakfast will not be provided, lunch and tea/coffee breaks are included in your registration fees.
Dinners are not included.
For teachers travelling from overseas:
Same as above; breakfasts will be taken at the hotel.

Accommodation for ISTA artists:
ISTA will book single room accommodation for the nights of the workshop.

Meals for ISTA artists:
ISTA will cover all meals for the duration of the workshop.

Please find below the relevant documentation for you to download:


Starts on Saturday 09 May at 09:00
Finishes on Sunday 10 May at 15:00 .



• Lena Noring


• Mhairi MacInnes