ISTA Drama Festival Reflections

Last weekend, the Yew Chung International School of Beijing was pleased to host the annual ISTA drama festival on campus. 23 of our students were selected to participate in this series of workshops based on their passion for and dedication to drama. These lucky students had the opportunity to join students from other schools across Asia in learning from professional actors, actresses, and drama teachers converging on campus from around the globe.

One of our participants, Stella Snider-Hickey in Year 8, spoke with us about this valuable experience, the skills she learned, and how studying drama has impacted her daily life.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Stella Snider-Hickey. I’ve been at YCIS Beijing for eight years starting in Year 1. I’m now in Year 8.


Please describe your experience at the ISTA Festival.

The festival took place over three days. On the first day, we got separated into different groups and played a variety of drama games. By the second day, we started to use those games to create our final show on the third day. On the third day, we presented our individual group projects to the audience. Our group used a larger amount of dialogue than other groups, plus made a song using the piano and with lyrics. This year’s theme focused on community and how it’s changed in Beijing throughout the years.

As we hosted the event this year, YCIS Beijing students and their families also hosted kids from other schools in Asia; my family hosted two girls from the King George V School in Hong Kong. It was really fun!

Why did you decide to participate in the festival?


I attended the festival last year at the Western Academy of Beijing as well and had a great time, so I decided to participate again this year! You make a lot of friends of course, but you also get to learn a lot of new skills that you don’t learn through the school musical. In the musical, you’re more focused on rehearsing as well as learning your lines and the songs, so you’re not actively learning new techniques or activities. This was a great opportunity to do so!

Which activity did you most enjoy participating in? What made it so enjoyable?

We got to select two of the workshops we wanted to take part in in addition to the mandatory ones. The ones I chose, Chinese drumming and comedy, were my favorites. The comedy section featured clowns and also taught us how to change animals into a variety of characters. The Chinese drumming was also really cool; we learned a lot of different sequences. My favorite drumming activity was an exercise in which two people acted out a tiger and a cow during a session, striking poses of each back in forth in a miniature “battle.”

Please introduce the performance your group gave during the end “sharing session” on Saturday afternoon. What was the message you hoped to convey through this performance?


We focused on the themes of loneliness and belonging during our performance. There were different scenes within our show that showed these themes in different contexts. Because many of the groups focused solely on the recent destruction and change in community in Beijing, we thought it would be unique to also look on the positive effects and what’s remained. Our message we hoped went through was that it’s not all lost!

Did you enjoy working with students from other international schools? Why?

Definitely! Since we drama students at YCIS Beijing work with each other so frequently, we know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, skillsets, and abilities. When you work with other people you haven’t met before, you have to get to know one another as well as what each person can do and bring to the final show.

How do you think participating in drama has helped you grow as a person?

Although I participated in Primary School musicals when I was younger, my first really challenging drama experience was when I acted in the musical <em">Annie in Year 6. There were more frustrations and challenges in that one to get over. Being faced with that kind of stress helps you learn how to relieve it more effectively; either you figure out a way to get over it or it gets overly distracting. This experience has helped me to deal with stress in other parts of my life too, including academics.

Anything else you would like to add?

Drama at YCIS Beijing is a lot of fun and very interesting! Although I haven’t been to a lot of other schools, the auditions here are definitely much more relaxed and inclusive compared to what I’ve heard about other schools. Even if you’re just a person in the chorus or ensemble, you get an opportunity to at least say a line or two. You feel very included, which is a great part about going to YCIS Beijing!

school logo