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Marc Mollica blog

Tips for producing a successful student performance

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Published date 20 March 2017

With the end of year show season fast approaching, we asked Marc Mollica, our Chief Examiner for Performing & Production Arts, to share his top tips for producing a successful student showcase…

Marc Mollica, photo by Ivan Jones.


As UAL Awarding Body’s Chief Examiner for Performing & Production Arts, I often get asked “what is the best way to approach the extended project?”

I always find this question difficult to answer; our ethos at UAL Awarding Body is to resist prescribing a particular approach to prevent work from becoming too formulaic. We want our moderation teams to report back on a diverse and creative season of student work, not identical looking productions that conform to a set of narrow principles.

“Yes, we understand that, but do you have any helpful tips” I hear you all cry?
Whilst I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive, I do have a number of tips, ideals and provocations from my own teaching experience that can be deliberated by students whilst they are working on their final creative projects:

Is the ambition for the project clear?
To start with, it would be wise to remind students what the ambitions and aims for the extended project actually are – these are not the aims from the specification but more importantly the ambitions of the project itself. In all likelihood, the extended project will serve as the students’ final memory of their time at your college, so the project needs to be an unforgettable experience that will be forever etched into their memories.

Creating such unforgettable experiences and life-long memories is a tall order, but if students are fully immersed within their projects, they will carry that same sense of curiosity and wonderment (as they progress) onto their next project.

Are the students being courageous with their choices?
We continually ask students to take risks, so is their final project pushing boundaries? Are they creating a stirring audience experience? Is the work verging on the dangerous or are they playing it safe? Are the stakes sky-high? Is the work surprising?

Are they being creative?
Sounds obvious, but is the project providing a platform to allow imaginations to take flight? Are they enjoying exploring the wider world of the project or are their minds too fixed on the end-point and are simply chasing a grade? If the focus in the rehearsal room is firmly fixed on creativity the grade will naturally follow but if the focus in the room is fixed on the final grade the creativity will struggle to flourish.

Is research informing practice?
Is the project consuming the student? Are they entering into the rehearsal buzzing from some research they have discovered over the weekend that will help propel the project forward and are now desperate to test it out with their peers? Are they becoming experts in their chosen fields? Are the supporting notes actually supporting the project? I was told recently of students working on a production of Cabaret who took it upon themselves to go to Berlin during their half-term holiday in order to experience first-hand the actual sights and smells of their project. This, I would assert, is already a successful project as the field trip is directly stimulating their creative endeavors whilst creating unique cherished memories.

In short, a reliable barometer of a successful end of year show can be easily detected if the students’ are proud of their final offering. Success is so often pinned to a statistic, but real success can be easily determined (and measured) by the students’ personal investment. The extended project sits proudly at the end of the students’ training and promotes (and celebrates) their inventiveness, curiosity, determination and sense of wonderment. Real success will therefore be found in the students’ journeys into the unknown.