Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching "Taming of the Shrew?"

I'm expected to teach "Taming of the Shrew" in a week or so. Anyone taught it before? Had any special successes with a certain lesson? Have any ideas that would be great fun?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ideas gone wrong

Today was "Job Alike" day, which means that all teachers in my district with the same subject areas all meet together instead of just meeting with your own school. It's the only time of the year that I get to see the high school theatre teachers, and one of a handful of times I get to see the other middle school theatre teachers, so it's always something to look forward to.

The head of theatre for the district brought up my idea from last year about starting a non-competitive theatre festival. We had two issues preventing us from doing it. One was the lack of host venue: we simply couldn't find anyone to give us their theatre for a weekend. But it was also a scheduling problem. It's hard enough for each of us to coordinate a show schedule on our home campuses without interfering with music and athletic events; trying to coordinate with other campuses was logistically impossible.

But today, someone said, "Well, what if it wasn't full shows that we're trying to rehearse at the same time? If it's just monologues and scenes? Then we can work on them in class and fit the preparation into almost any schedule."

I tried to butt in and say that monologue and scene showcases are dumb, and boring, and aren't theatre. I mean, would the Steppenwolf or Guthrie add a monologue showcase for local actors into their season? No, because it's self-serving and masturbatory, and it's just not theatre. But I couldn't get a word in because someone else said, "Yeah, and instead of trying to get a theatre space, we can just do it in classrooms at one of the schools."

The bad advice just kept coming. "And the high school theatre teachers could judge them!" "And assign each one a grade, like at a choir UIL contest!" "Yeah, each kid can do their piece, and get a rating!"

So instead of doing actual theatre, we'll have dozens of kids desperately trying to disconnect with others, working alone, not seeing all the other performers, and getting judged. It's like a speech tournament, but even worse. At least a speech tournament has fun and silly events like TV Commercial and Pantomime, and you get a trophy for your trouble. This is beyond pointless.

The middle school teachers are getting together with the head of theatre in two weeks to discuss logistics for setting this up. I'm of two minds. I could say, "This is the opposite of working together to achieve a creative goal, which makes it the opposite of theatre. It's isolated, judgmental, and pointless, and I'm not going to devote a second of class time to train kids for something so worthless."

Or, I could say, "You want to do it when? Oh, we've got a meet-the-teacher thing that night. The next week? That's a choir concert, my kids will be busy. The week after? I'm going out of town, I'm sorry. The next month? That's the only time we can have auditions for our spring show, and we'll be busy all year after that."

So should I play this aggressive or passive?

Monday, August 17, 2009


Any ideas about teaching a combined beginning/advanced Drama (acting) class?

My plan with Advanced was to start with competition pieces (comp is 8 weeks into school) and do about 5 - 7 week units, each of which end in a showcase. My plan for Beginning was to develop technique and skills first, then artistry by working on scenes, monologue, reading/discussing plays, etc.