Shyest Class Makes In-Roads Through Playwriting, Directing and Technical Theatre

I have this class, this very interesting class comprised of the nicest students but…shy…they are very shy. All year long, they have struggled, painfully, to work together, they are so shy, girl not mixing with the boys, boys not mixing with the girls. But over time, they started to overcome this with the help of scene prompts that put them in situations where they had to play, essentially, ‘house’…or family, as it were. Families on road trips.

At the start of the year, what could take another class two or three periods to create a comic scene took this group three times longer, and this was with teaching input. But oddly, given an audience the group eventually managed to cobble together a family scene, which turned into the most successful story presented at the autumn collective creation on People – People Who Need People. How would this group do after that?

Back to square one, but not quite. They were still struggling, and come the spring fairy production of children’s theatre, they did well – finally. Before an audience. And then? They fell back again!!! Reverted back to what I would call a shy/lazy behaviour. What was this about? All things considered, they had learned how to manage themselves onstage, they had learned how to compose scenes, block themselves effectively, express characters using movement and stage business. I decided to really push them forward after some attempts at scriptwork which they didn’t overly enjoy.

I assigned them a ‘major’ piece of theatre using prompts that I thought highly interesting, myself…create a technical theatre piece using the idea of a nightmare OR find a tabloid news article and dramatize the story. First one group was going to do a nightmare sequence. The other chose to do a story set in a psychiatric institution. Apparently, a nurse hid in a closet when the power went out and the doors of the patients’ rooms opened up. She feared for her life. BEAUTIFUL PROMPT AND CONTEXT. HIGHLY DRAMATIC STORYLINE.

It was too compelling. The nightmare sequence group begged to join the other group, and suddenly they were back to an ensemble of nine students. This was the unbelievable outcome.

My only input was to help the students build a back story to their characters, through hotseating each actor…and to have them identify animals they would be like, to physicalize those characters. The outcome was a marvellous 16-min piece of Devised Theatre with playwriting, tech and directing as the focus.

Their reward? Improvisation for the rest of the year, focusing on acting skills. Strange directions this class has gone in, but they have learned much. Sometimes the route of a drama class is a circuitous one. The beauty of the teaching of drama is that this is a course where students necessarily have input. I love that.

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Frantic Assembly Inspires

I first heard about the UK theatre company Frantic Assembly last at the EARCOS Fine Arts conference in Manila. Teachers were bandying about the company’s name. I knew nada…nothing. But after attending a Level 1 IB Theatre training in Manchester this past October, I was yet again to be introduced to the company in name…so I did what any good teacher would do…I hit the internet!

Frantic Assembly offered in immediate ‘in’ to their style of constructing alternative moves that change the whole equation of what you see when you watch a piece of theatre. So, I started my class on them, then…put my Grade 9/10 class into groups, gave them contexts like:

  1. a construction site
  2. a post office
  3. a daycare
  4. a chocolate factory

And here is what they did. Oh. And they employed the technique of ‘chairology’ which is a way of shifting sets with chairs, as taught by actress Annie Sutton at a Dubai theatre practitioners’ methods workshop this past March.

I do believe all the professional development is bearing fruit. This is the fascinating work of my students in the early stage of their final piece for this year: Devised theatre applying the techniques of Annie Sutton, Frantic Assembly and eventually Uta Hagen.

Under the Big Top! – Clowns, Mimes, Comedy

16425771_10154901626563886_8789029458494009940_n.jpgClowning and physical theatre represent the origins of comedy which was initially a privilege for the upper classes…put on by the court jesters in China and Egypt thousands of years ago.

Today, drawing from many influences modern and contemporary, especially the white faced mime of France’s Marcel Marceau, we have…Under the Big Top!…a middle school comedy of clowns, mimes and Mr. Bean-like characters.

People Who Need People

As they say, “Bad dress rehearsal, great show.”

The dress rehearsal was in pieces because this year we have a lot of shy students who have joined middle school drama at ISGJ. The rehearsal took almost three hours, but the next night, the show ran at a solid hour and a half with an intermission. Imagine! Why? Because the audience brings an energy that lifts the students and the performances. Theatre is not theatre without a live performance!

In four short months we have managed to put together a two act production of devised theatre (written and produced by the students) on the theme of family. The title of the show reflects the fact that, while we may not all be the same, or get along, we need each other.

The students worked well together, learning the true meaning of being part of an ‘ensemble’ and the photos below showed an extremely healthy turnout. The ISGJ Black Box was full with 100 people in attendance. Bravo! Here’s a collection of images from the night.

New school year…more drama…MIME & SLAPSTICK!

New school year…more drama…MIME & SLAPSTICK!

Grade 6 students have spent two months learning how to work as an ensemble and use their minds, bodies and the stage for character, story performance and – ultimately – audience effect.

This pair took all the lessons on full body extension, playing to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, timing, using the width and depth of the stage, stage business, mime and movement as well as facial expression…and pulled this beaut off.

A brilliant piece of slapstick pantomime. ENJOY!

Guard and Thief Mime from Lorelei Loveridge on Vimeo.