My current school has trimesters, each one twelve weeks long. I've been spending the first six weeks of each trimester on a variety of activities (Sculpture Garden, Building a Sonnet, Status, etc.). Depending on how the classes behaved and responded to the work, I spent the second six weeks of each trimester on public speaking assignments or a class play.
In the first trimester I did Henry V with three of my four classes, and in the second trimester I did Midsummer with only one of my classes. I cut the plays to less than 40 minutes in length, and split up the parts like we did for Julius Caesar. No student had more than 50 lines of text to learn.
The classes that did the plays were kind of lukewarm to the whole experiment. They liked that they weren't stuck with public speaking stuff, but they were never really invested in the play. There was simply too much down time for each student. I could work two or three scenes in a class period, which means I only worked with less than half of the students on any given day. I used feeders to try to get the rest involved, but many are poor readers or ESL and didn't like to feed, so a lot of them sat around every day getting bored.
I'm three weeks into the last trimester, so I need to start figuring out what to do for the last six weeks. I predict that two of my classes will respond well to the short scene work we're doing next week, so those two will do class plays at the end of the year. My question is, how do I get the students to be more invested in the work?
So far this year I haven't started with reading the play as a class or doing a lot of character and plot analysis because I didn't want my Communication Applications class to seem like an English class (no offense to the English teachers, I'm just playing the "this class should be totally different from your other classes" card to encourage students to take more risks). I've been casting the shows and diving right into scene work to keep the kids from being scared of the language, but now I'm questioning that tactic.
I'm also unsure of the splitting of roles. It keeps kids from having roles of wildly different lengths, but I think it makes them stop thinking of their character as THEIR character. If I didn't split the roles, I'd have to choose a play with at least 27 speaking roles, which eliminates most of the comedies. Also, a kid playing the lead would have forty times the lines of Messenger #3, which hardly seems like the right thing to do. On the other hand, my best class currently has a refugee of the theatre department who doesn't like the new theatre teacher, and he could totally tear up a leading role. It's not in his best interest to make him share the role with five other kids, but it's not in the best interest of the rest of the class to have him carry the show while them merely support him.
So what do you think I should do? Split, or not split? Study the play before rehearsing, or no? Should I try Henry V or Midsummer again, or should I try something new, like Macbeth?