OBA Weekly Newsletter. Issue 89 - 15th December 2016

Issue 89 - 15th December 2016
Dear families and friends of OBA,

Another very busy week at OBA to report on, with lots of fantastic activities taking place.  In this newsletter, I am sure you will have great fun reading about our wonderful production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and all the hard work that went into making this such a huge success.  

We have also seen our students rewarded for all their hard work this term and are very proud of them.  There will be one more Newsletter sent out this year, where you will be able to read about all the fun events of the last week before Christmas, so keep checking your emails and you will be bowled over by all the superb opportunities on offer to our students.

Best wishes

Mr. M Wyss
Academy Principal

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

Last week OBA showcased three spectacular performances of ‘A Christmas Carol’.  The novella, written by Charles Dickens, was first published in 1843 and is also one of the set books being studied in English lessons across the Academy.

The students and staff from OBA, along with pupils from OBA’s local primary schools, pulled out all the stops to entertain a full house over the three consecutive evenings.  With highly professional displays of drama, dazzling dance skills and musical talents of the highest quality on show, all the months of after school, half-term and weekend rehearsals finally paid off.

The spectacular set and costumes added to the high-quality event and it got everyone in attendance well into the Christmas spirit. As they left school at the end of the performance, you could hear many parents singing and humming Christmas songs which had been so expertly performed throughout the show.

Drama teacher and Director of the show, Mrs Noon, said:

Everyone had worked so hard and had attended so many rehearsals that I actually did expect the performances to go well.  There are, however, always nerves in advance of any big production but each and every OBA student, primary pupil and member of staff who contributed to the success of the shows really did themselves proud.

Mrs Noon added:

Yes, we were all exhausted at the end of the three performances but, once the adrenaline kicked in, it was sad that it all had to come to an end.  I would like to thank everyone who helped in any way at all as I couldn’t have done this without all their support. It was a massive team effort and everyone was amazing!

Performing Arts In The Spotlight

Have you ever thought about what goes into a theatrical performance to ensure its success? Read on to find out more from the key staff who made all the wonderful performances of ‘A Christmas Carol’ actually happen!

Applied learning links: 
Director, Choreographer, Musical Director, Backstage Manager/Primary Cast

Mrs Noon - Director What does a Director actually do?
    •    Have a vision for the whole play (everything you see and hear)
    •    Make casting decisions
    •    Runs the auditions
    •    Creates a rehearsal schedule
    •    Runs all rehearsals
    •    Meets with the technical team to discuss props, costume, set, lighting and sound
    •    Liaises with the stage manager to ensure the show nights run smoothly 

The role of a Director 
This is both challenging and rewarding. A Director’s role starts when the Director gets the script, so for me this process started in July and I spent a number of days of the summer holidays reading through and annotating the script with my ideas. As a Director, it is very important that you can visualise the script on stage when you are reading the play. What I love about Directing is that there can be so many different alternatives to any scene. I read once that a Director makes up to 100 decisions an hour- you most certainly need to be on the ball! 

I always sit down and write out a set of key questions and problems that I need to consider and overcome during the rehearsal process. It is the Director's role to come up with ideas on the style of the play, the actors’ performances as well as the lighting, set, props, costume and sound effects. Many of these things occur naturally throughout rehearsal but it is vital that they are decided on at the start and then communicated clearly to the production team throughout the rehearsal process. 

The next step is to audition the actors. During the audition process a Director is looking for evidence of stage presence and a confident performer with audience awareness and an ability to use characterisation skills to communicate a successful role and meaning to an audience. It is important the actor is well prepared, can learn lines fast and can experiment with their physicality without being restricted by holding their script. A successful actor is proactive in rehearsals and has their own ideas for the scene and characters. Basically, they have done their research. In order for the rehearsal and performance to run smoothly, it is vital that all cast members attend rehearsals and are committed to the show. The technical and backstage crew are crucial to ensure the show runs smoothly. On the night, all the actors must keep calm and not panic. They must be prepared and give it their all! 

What does a good rehearsal look like?
A good rehearsal starts on time, is well-planned out with specific targets on what needs to be achieved by the end of the rehearsal. The actors are well prepared and know their lines. They contribute to the process and there are many creative ideas that lead to light bulb moments. Key questions are explored, problems are solved and a polished scene is the end product. 

What is the best and worst part of being a Director?
The best part is being creative, having the freedom to see your ideas come to reality. The worst part is the stress of working under strict time constraints and worrying that the show won’t be ready in time! It is very disappointing when actors let you down or don't commit too. I always feel very nervous when the audience are in and the show is about to start as they have paid to see your show - it’s a big responsibility! 


My World Real Life Link
I specialised in directing in my final year of university where I achieved the highest mark possible for my module. I directed a short film which included actors from RADA, a prestigious acting school in London.  This was screened at a local cinema near Loughborough University.

Shining stars of the process
I would like to thank each and every cast member for their hard work and dedication. A special thank you to Toni Burns for playing the lead role and all the challenges that have come with doing this. Our backstage crew were fantastic, specifically Rhys James and Michael Batty who ran the lighting and sound for the production- a huge achievement! Lauren O’Niell did a fantastic job as OBA’s make-up artist. She is so talented and her special effects work is unreal! Thank you all for an amazing experience.

Mrs Barker - Choreographer

Challenges as a Choreographer
As this show is a traditional play and not a musical I knew my job could be a difficult one in order to include some show-stopping dance numbers. During rehearsals, Mrs Noon and I thought it would be a great idea to give the 'Christmas Spirits' their own theme tune and ensemble of dancers. Therefore I began to create dance sections linking to the theme of each Christmas spirit, to create a build- up and entrance for each ghost. 

The most difficult part when choreographing a show
Working around the set can be difficult. During rehearsals we create and choreograph in a big dance studio. However, when the set arrives a few days before show time, it is challenging to adapt to the spatial surroundings, although our cast of dancers adapted brilliantly. 


The most fun part about choreographing for the show
I love to be creative - this is why I love Dance! Choreographing and performing is what I enjoy best, so putting together school shows is great fun. Choreographing the dark sections of the play was very enjoyable, as well as being able to sing and dance along to all the Christmas songs and carols – I felt very festive!

What skills you need to make it as a professional dancer
To be a professional dancer you must have a lot of training and experience of live performances. Training must include hours in the dance studio to perfect technique and performance skills. Dancers need to be versatile in many styles of dance and be willing to adapt to any theme, or scenario given to them. It's a hard industry as the competition is tough, so standing out in auditions comes down to the dancers look, personality (both on and off stage) and. of course. dancing ability!

Star pupil in the show
They were all fantastic, but if I have to single out only one, this has to be Kiah Patterson in Year 7. I nicknamed her 'mini director' with Mrs Noon, as Kiah always knew what stage direction had been given out to the cast and never forgot any choreography or direction given to her. She was always punctual to rehearsals, very keen and willing to work. She was a pleasure to have in the cast.

I would like to also thank Ewan Jago who was a fantastic help backstage and was super organised with props, set and cues - well done, Ewan! 

Mrs Cathcart - Musical Director The role of a Musical Director can be a bit like an octopus – often doing eight things at once!  In the run-up to a performance you are responsible for rehearsing the singers in the show, so you have to spend time with any soloists, small groups and the ensemble.  Sometimes the MD will work in liaison with a rehearsal pianist who will play a piano adaptation of the music to accompany the singers, and they may also work with specialist singing teachers or a chorus master, but often the MD will be responsible for co-ordinating all these elements themselves.  

It is also vital for them to know the musical score inside out, so they can rehearse the music with the scenes on stage.  This is when underscore music is often required – music that is played quietly by the band as the action is happening on stage – which helps to set the scene and add extra atmosphere.  Sometimes the MD will be responsible for composing and scoring this additional music, if it is necessary.  

When it comes to the actual shows, the MD acts as the link between what is happening on stage and the music from the orchestra pit.  They will lead the singers on stage as well as conduct the band and cue the music, and often play the piano too.  It can be a bit of a challenge trying to follow dialogue on stage during a scene, as well as play and conduct at the same time – especially if some of the dialogue from the actors is missed out!  Equally, as last-minute cuts and changes are made to dialogue in rehearsals leading up to opening night, this can affect the amount of music needed for a particular scene or set change – this often requires the MD to think and act fast in order to fill any gaps and make the transitions as smooth as possible.  This is an element of being an MD/rehearsal pianist that I really enjoy, as you have the opportunity to be creative and use improvisation skills to add additional atmosphere or tension to the story.  

The students at OBA have really impressed me this year, especially those who auditioned to have small vocal solos or group numbers.  Furthermore, I think that Thomas Brettell and Demi Gaskin, in particular, have shown resilience and confidence since starting at OBA in September, by successfully auditioning for solo songs.  Additionally, Amy Parsons and Carrie Clarke have demonstrated real musicality and professionalism throughout rehearsals and always perform to the very best of their ability.

Miss Mc Kevitt - Backstage Manager/Primary Cast It was a stressful job at times, but overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable one, taking on the position of Backstage Manager for this year’s school production. I had a fantastic team helping me every step of the way; from making costume, creating props, sourcing sound effects as well as programming the lighting, everyone who helped out had an important role to play. It’s hard to single out just one person who impressed me, as every student in the technical team went above and beyond what was asked of them. No job I gave them was too much trouble for them and their response was always “No problem Miss.” I wouldn’t have been able to do my job without each of them by my side, so I owe the whole technical team a massive thank you for all their hard work and dedication to this year’s school production!

This year we were delighted at the interest from local primary schools wanting to take part in the annual school production. They have rehearsed tirelessly and worked their socks off in order to learn the songs and choreography from early October. They bring so much fun and a little something extra to the performances. I was blown away by their professionalism as well as the awesome costumes that they handmade or sourced themselves. 

A big thank you and many congratulations go to all the primary school teachers and pupils of the following schools for their contributions: Windmill Hill, Hill View, The Brow, Brookvale and Gorsewood Primary Schools.

Miss McKevitt added:

Last, but not least, I want to say a massive THANK YOU to Miss Edwards and Miss Wells for all their help and support with rehearsals for the primary pupils… I couldn’t have done it without you!

OBA Sends Christmas Cards to Bradley

Avid football supporter, Mr Milne, has been following the very emotional story of five year old, Bradley Lowery, on social media.  

Bradley, a five year old Sunderland fan, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2013. 

After two-years of gruelling chemotherapy, Bradley was effectively free of cancer for eighteen months but his mother has recently revealed that his cancer has returned.  So, the Sunderland football community came together to raise funds to send him to America to receive treatment and more than £700,000 has been raised. 

An Everton fan heard about Bradley’s story and started up a Christmas card campaign which involved a request for as many Christmas cards as possible to be sent to Bradley to cheer him up. Everton FC even pledged £200,000.

OBA’s students have been taking part in this campaign and students have been sending cards to Bradley who has now received in excess of 11,000, with cards and presents having been sent from as far away as Australia.

Mr Milne has co-ordinated the ‘Christmas Card Campaign’ in OBA with Year 7 and Year 8 students but he would also like to encourage anyone who has not already sent a card to do so, as each and every card cheers Bradley up.

If you wish to do so, the address is 

Bradley’s Fight
C/o 5 Attlee Avenue
Blackhall Rocks
TS27 4BY

Having a Bowl

Science teachers Miss Hanson, Mr Braitch and Miss McMullen took twenty-seven students on a bowling reward trip last week to Superbowl in Widnes.

All the Science Faculty wanted to treat the students to say a massive well done for their regular attendance at after-school Science enrichment or because they had reached their target grade in the recent mock exams.

Miss Hanson, who co-ordinated the trip said:

The students enjoyed the free trip which included an hour of bowling fun, followed by a meal. Each of the hard working students was also given a selection box to take home as a further thank you for all their efforts and achievements- well done to them all.  There will be another similar reward trip in the New Year, so keep up the hard work!

Gold Maths Achievement for Tom

Four of our incredible Key Stage 5 Sixth Form students recently sat the ‘Senior Maths Challenge’.

Miss Watkins, Head of Key Stage 5 Maths, said:

This is no mean feat; it is a gruelling ninety minute question paper that tests problem solving ability and is organised and run by UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematics Trust).

This prestigious challenge attracts entries from approximately 250,000 pupils from over 1000 schools. The top 40% of students nationally receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate in the ratio 1:2:3 and we were delighted to have two of our students receive awards.

Jack Cartmell (Year 12) achieved a well-deserved Bronze Award whilst Tom Graham (Year 13) achieved an outstanding Gold Award, ranking him amongst the highest achievers across the country. Tom is currently applying to go to university to study Maths and Computer Science.

Miss Watkins added:

On behalf of all the Maths Faculty, and OBA as a whole, I would like to congratulate all those who got involved in the ‘Senior Maths Challenge’ which is very demanding.  Jack did brilliantly and Tom is simply an amazing mathematician who deserves to win the highest award possible.  Well done!

Below is an example of one of the questions the students had to answer:

Tech Talk

Welcome to Tech Talk @ OBA, the part of the weekly newsletter where we share useful apps, websites and devices. 

This week’s Tech Talk is going to share an app that many people will be using in the coming weeks – Google’s Santa Tracker!

The free Christmas Santa Tracker is all about Christmas Spirit and getting you in the mood for a great festive period. Follow Santa as he flies around the world delivering presents!

Santa Tracker is the perfect tool for youngsters to track ‘the big fella’ as he makes his way around the world and to the houses of all those who have been good this year! This free app also contains an Advent Calendar which reveals day by day sightings of Santa

There are also optional upgrades adding exciting Santa stories, a countdown to Christmas and the ability to send a letter to Santa.

Santa Tracker is the perfect tool to enjoy the build up to the big day!

Do you have a piece of technology that you would like to share or that you may have heard of and would like to see explained in Tech Talk? If so, contact Mr Hussey via email:

Puzzle Challenge

Last week we gave you a puzzle to solve. Did you crack it? Check your answer below:

Try your hand at this week’s Maths Puzzle Challenge.  

You will find the answer in the next issue of OBA’s newsletter. 
Good luck from Miss Arends and the Maths Faculty.

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