Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rehearsal in the classroom

I've been doing a lot of our new activities in class, but not mentioning the word "Shakespeare." I'm going to start with some simple Shakespeare text stuff next week (the third of six weeks in the grading period), and I hope to end the six weeks with the presentation of short scenes, like our Macbeth scenes.

If all goes well, I'd like to spend next six weeks (it's only a twelve-week class) rehearsing a cut version of a play with changing roles, just like we did for Julius Caesar. The problem is, I don't know how to do that in the regular classroom by myself. How do I work with two actors on their scene when there are thirty-two other kids in the room? They aren't going to stay quiet and let us work, and I can't just send everyone else into the hall. I could divide the class into two or three groups like we did for JC, but that brings back the same problem. I can't have the bulk of the class running wild in the hallways, and I can't expect them to sit quietly and watch while others are working on a scene. So is this even possible? How does one do a class play with 34 non-actors?


At 9:55 PM, Blogger educat said...

I think it means you use an "acting company" model (Rachael has details on that) and let them do some self directing. It means letting go of the product, and that's so hard, but it could bring good results.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Holbrook said...

With student directors? I can try it, but I'm expecting a lot of resistance to the material. "Shakespeare? Acting? I thought this was Public Speaking? The other teacher just gives them worksheets and talks on the phone all class."

I'd like to hear more about the acting company model, though. Do the student directors also act? If the student directors take their groups into the hall to run lines while I'm working with another group, what motivation does the student director have to try to get his group to work instead of just goofing off with them?

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Shakespeare Teacher said...

Hi! Is this Michael or Craig?

I facilitate. And that is how I teach students to direct and act. Instead of sending them away, breaking them up, I ask questions with the whole group present that lead students to make choices. It's wonderflu when a student makes a choice and can be objective enough and egoless enough to throw it out and go for another one. All students observe and actively take notes in their required and graded journals and then reinforce. It keeps them engaged and hungry for their turn to perform. By the same token, they are excited to be so involved in the creative process. It's all collaborative. I hope this helps.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Wonderflu??? hee hee.

It may be hard to assign student directors this early in the game--there's a lot they should understand about the principles of drama before they can act as directors.

I would suggest two things: 1. Work with the whole group, like Christine said. Ask everyone questions, make it a whole team effort to create this product. Hold them accountable in some way by assigning someone to keep track of comments made, or having them journal about the day.

2. Split them into groups, and while you're working with one group, have the others working as dramaturgs for each other. Create handouts about objective, tactics, basic plotline, etc, that they can answer for each character as a team. Have them focus on something different each day. Emphasize that they are a TEAM, and should be working together to figure stuff out.

Hopefully, they'll get to a point where they want to rehearse during the time they have together and you won't have to worry so much.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Holbrook said...

(It's Craig)

Even if the kids who aren't in the scene are being engaged in questions and journaling, I still doubt their ability to shut their traps so we can work. I've been pounding my class's Rule #1, "respect others," since the first day, so maybe it'll sink in by the time I'm ready to do this.

So you don't think I should split them into any kind of groups like we did for JC? Being in smaller groups could help with running lines or dictionary work, but I guess that wouldn't have to be "permanent" smaller groups, I could just divide them up for that day.

Should I have auditions, or just place kids in roles like Kevin did with us?

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Shakespeare Teacher said...

Go easy on yourself Craig. Allow yourself to fail. Take off the "teacher" hat (status) and they will quiet down eventually. For me, theatre is not about control. Theatre is about seduction.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger chitarita said...

This is a great topic, Craig - I'm getting a lot from it, so thanks for asking the questions.

Some things that may work-

1. Whether to hold auditions or not depends on a) your objectives (is it important for your students to experience auditions?) and b) how well you know your students. Doing the daily activities and the basics workshops probably help Kevin and co with the casting. If you've gotten a good sense of your students from observing them in class, maybe they don't need the stress of auditions.

2. While working as a large group can be helpful, if your students are at all like mine (and it sounds like they are), it will be hard to hold their attention when they are not the center of attention. You can help keep them focused if you give them specific things to do while they are not up acting/feeding in (for example, make up some generic worksheets that guide them through watching the actors for specific behaviors).

3. I think there is value in splitting up into groups, and I've had some success with it myself. You do need to have some accountability, though, like Emily mentioned. Two tricks I've used are a) again, use a generic worksheet. I made one for my last show that had the students each set a goal for the day, list steps to achieve it, then had them reflect on how they did. Their goals could include blocking a scene, memorizing a particular speech, or just running their scene 5 times through.
b) Gather some recording equipment - video cameras if you can, or tape recorders. Send a recording device with each group and tell them you'll be watching/listening to them later to check their work. It's not the same as having you there, but it helps keep them on task.

4. Another tip - I avoid using the term "director" when I'm putting students into that role, even for a day. They tend to think it's synonymous with "boss", and just end up making the rest of the group mad. Instead, I call them "SAMs" - Simulated Audience Members. Their job is to watch the group, then tell them what they saw/didn't see/felt. No judgement, just observations. It takes a bit of training, but they can get it. Coach them before they try it. Have a group do their scene, then model what a SAM might say - "The girl was angrier than the boy. She yelled louder." The performers then reflect (in writing or discussion) on whether that was what they wanted the audience to think. (Should the girl be quieter? Should the boy be louder? Or was it just what they wanted?) If the SAM says "I can't see you" - they can cheat out, move the prop, etc.
You can also pair groups together and have them take turns being SAMs for each other. Just make sure that if you do split the class into small groups, you make the rounds and visit everyone. When I get stuck working with one group, the others tend to notice and stop working.

Most of all, the biggest motivation is the end product. Embarassment is a powerful motivator, so get them an audience of some kind to perform for. Invite other classes, parents, the administration, whoever. Just get an audience, and then make sure your students remember that it will be them, not you, who are up there. Whether it's a happy memory or an embarassing one is up to them, not you. I have to remind my students of that several times during our rehearsals, but it does motivate them.

Sorry. That's a lot of words for a comment. Keep us posted, though, on how it goes!


At 10:44 AM, Blogger Holbrook said...

That's some really great advice! Lots of good ideas. I won't be attemtping this for a few weeks, but I'll be sure and post my results as I go.


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